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Researchers engineer the environment for stem cell development to control differentiation
Date:6/16/2011

Stem cell technologies have been proposed for cell-based diagnostics and regenerative medicine therapies. However, being able to make stem cells efficiently develop into a desired cell type -- such as muscle, skin, blood vessels, bone or neurons -- limits the clinical potential of these technologies.

New research presented on June 16, 2011 at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) shows that systematically controlling the local and global environments during stem cell development helps to effectively direct the process of differentiation. In the future, these findings could be used to develop manufacturing procedures for producing large quantities of stem cells for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

"Stem cells don't make any decisions in isolation; their decisions are spatially and temporally directed by biochemical and mechanical cues in their environment," said Todd McDevitt, director of the Stem Cell Engineering Center at Georgia Tech and an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. "We have designed systems that allow us to tightly control these properties during stem cell differentiation, but also give us the flexibility to introduce a new growth factor or shake the cells a little faster to see how changes like these affect the outcome."

These systems can also be used to compare the suitability of specific stem cell types for a particular use.

"We have developed several platforms that will allow us to conduct head-to-head studies with different kinds of stem cells to determine if one type of stem cell outperforms another type for a certain application," said McDevitt, who is also a Petit Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia.

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Contact: Abby Robinson
abby@innovate.gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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