Synthetic culture bed may support stem cell transplant safety

A synthetic bed for stem cell culture has been developed by Brown University (Providence, RI, USA) scientists as a safe substitute to mouse cell culture, without the associated contamination risk that would otherwise effect transplantation safety.

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May 05, 2016

Culturing stem cells on a bed of mouse fibroblasts is sufficient for benchside research, but is not appropriate for cells destined for human clinical application, owing to the contamination risk. Bioengineers from Brown University (Providence, RI, USA) have developed a synthetic culture bed that works similarly to mouse fibroblasts, but doesn’t have the associated safety risks.

“The gold standard for making the best stem cells would be starting with embryonic stem cells and growing them on a mouse embryonic fibroblast layer,” explained Diane Hoffman-Kim, associate professor of medical science and of engineering. “If we could understand the elements of that gold standard, then we could try to make an off-the-shelf product.”

The scientists, led by Hoffman-Kim’s former doctoral student Cristina Lopez-Fagundo, used a rubbery mould spread over fibroblasts, which they then used to cast a synthetic culture bed that mimicked the stiffness and bumpiness of the fibroblasts.

The synthetic bed sustained comparable colonies of embryonic mouse stem cells to the fibroblast bed: the stem cell colonies were somewhat smaller in number at first but sometimes larger in area, but by 3 weeks of culturing were similar in number to fibroblast culture. Furthermore, the mouse embryonic stem cells on the synthetic bed differentiated into the three germ layers successfully, indicating they could mature comparably.

“This is not the gold standard, and we’re not saying it is,” Lopez-Fagundo explained, “But it definitely makes up for the disadvantages of culturing with mouse embryonic fibroblasts.”

In order to further investigate the potential of this culture bed for help support stem cell production for clinical use, the team will next test non-embryonic human stem cells on the bed, and also aim to elucidate why the texture or stiffness of the culture bed has such a significant effect on stem cell biology.


What more needs to be done to accelerate the development of safe, scalable expansion of stem cells for clinical transplantation? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Alexandra Thompson

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I am ex-Editor and Community Manager of the RegMedNet community. Please contact the present Editor Freya Leask with any queries.

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