Incorporation of bio-inspired microparticles within embryonnic stem cell aggregates for directed differentiation
Sullivan, Denise D.
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Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are a unique cell population that can differentiate into all three embryonic germ layers (endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm), rendering them an invaluable cell source for studying the molecular mechanisms of embryogenesis. Signaling molecules that direct tissue patterning during embryonic development are secreted by ESC aggregates, known as embryoid bodies (EBs). As many of these signaling proteins interact with the extracellular matrix (ECM), manipulation of the ESC extracellular environment provides a means to direct differentiation. ECM components, such as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), play crucial roles in cell signaling and regulation of morphogen gradients during early development through binding and concentration of secreted growth factors. Thus, engineered biomaterials fabricated from highly sulfated GAGs, such as heparin, provide matrices for manipulation and efficient capture of ESC morphogens via reversible electrostatic and affinity interactions. Ultimately, biomaterials designed to efficiently capture and retain morphogenic factors offer an attractive platform to enhance the differentiation of ESCs toward defined cell types. The overall objective of this work was to examine the ability of microparticles synthesized from both synthetic and naturally-derived materials to enhance the local presentation of morphogens to direct ESC differentiation. The overall hypothesis was that microparticles that mimic the ECM can modulate ESC differentiation through sequestration of endogenous morphogens present within the EB microenvironment.