Biomaterial integration within 3D stem cell aggregates for directed differentiation
Bratt-Leal, Andrés Miguel
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The derivation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) has created an invaluable resource for scientific study and discovery. Further improvement in differentiation protocols is necessary to generate the large number of cells needed for clinical relevance. The goal of this work was to develop a method to incorporate biomaterial microparticles (MPs) within stem cell aggregates and to evaluate their use for local control of the cellular microenvironment for directed differentiation. The effects of unloaded MPs on ESC differentiation were first determined by controlled incorporation of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA), agarose and gelatin MPs. Embryoid body (EB) formation, cell viability, and gross morphology were not affected by the presence of the MPs. Further analysis of gene expression and patterns of phenotypic marker expression revealed alterations in the differentiation profile in response to material incorporation. The ability of MPs to direct ESC differentiation was investigated by incorporation of growth factor loaded MPs within EBs. MPs were loaded with bone morphogenetic protein-4 (BMP-4). BMP-4 loaded MPs incorporated within EBs induced mesoderm gene expression while inhibiting expression of an ectoderm marker compared to untreated EBs. Finally, magnetic MPs (magMPs) were incorporated within EBs to induce magnetic sensitivity. The responsiveness of EBs to applied magnetic fields was controlled by the number of magMPs incorporated within the aggregates. Magnetic guidance was then used to control the precise location of single EBs or populations of EBs for bioreactor culture and for construction of heterogeneous cell constructs. Overall, the results indicated that PSC differentiation within spheroids is sensitive to various types of biomaterials. Incorporation of MPs within EBs can be used to direct ESC differentiation by control of the cellular environment from microscale interactions, by delivery of soluble factors, to macroscale interactions, by control of EB position in static and suspension cultures.