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3-D scaffold provides clean, biodegradable structure for stem cell growth
Date:2/2/2010

sition embryonic stem cells to the clinic. To date, nobody has found a perfect matrix."

Zhang's cylindrical scaffold is made of chitosan, found in the shells of crustaceans, and alginate, a gelatinous substance found in algae. Chitosan and alginate have a structure similar to the matrix that surrounds cells in the body, to which cells can attach. Different processing techniques can make the scaffold out of interconnected pores of almost any size, Zhang said.

Researchers first seeded the scaffold with 500,000 embryonic stem cells, and after 21 days the scaffold was completely saturated. The cells infiltrated the structure, Zhang added, unlike other materials where cells often grow only on the surface.

"This scaffold mimics the extracellular matrix at the atomic level, and so the cells are able to grow in this environment," Zhang said.

To retrieve the cells, researchers immersed the scaffold in a mild solution. The structure is biodegradable and so dissolved to release the stem cells. One also could implant the stem cell-covered scaffold directly into the body.

Analysis of gene activity and testing in the lab and in mice showed that the new stem cells retained the same properties as their predecessors.

Other researcher groups are also looking for alternatives to feeder layers. The leading contenders are scaffolds coated with custom proteins designed to mimic the key properties of the animal cells in the feeder layer. Such products are expensive and difficult to produce in a consistent manner, Zhang said. The proteins also get used up in a few days and have to be replaced, making them costly and time-consuming for everyday use.

"Our scaffold is made of natural materials that are already FDA-approved for food and biomedical applications. Also, these materials are unlimited, and the cost is cheap," she said.

Zhang's group is now working to build a scaffold larger than the current dime-sized prototype, and is collaborating wit
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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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