Researchers have altered blood cell development by using biomaterials designed to mimic characteristics of the bone marrow, it has been announced.
The findings, in the journal Science Advances, describe how the tissue that surrounds haematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow provide signals that can alter how the precursor cells behave.
Professor Brendan Harley of the University of Illinois said he and his team looked at the signals provided by the tissue matrix itself.
He said within treatments transplanting HSCs, the donor stem cells must locate marrow cavities and start producing blood and immune cells. However, there is a limited quantity of available donor HSCs and the success rate of transplantation is low.
Professor Harley and co-author Ji Sun Choi used HSC samples from mice and grew them in the laboratory using biomaterials engineered to mimic some of the extracellular matrix properties of the native bone marrow.
The researchers examined collagen and fibronectin, the two main elements of the matrix that regularly interact with HSCs, finding that HSCs exposed to collagen proliferated more rapidly but that they had differentiated.
When exposed to fibronectin, the stem cells proliferated less rapidly, maintained their stem cell-like nature.
'With the collagen substrates, we got more cells but not useful cells,' Harley said. 'With the right combination of stiffness in the matrix and the presence of fibronectin, we identified a class of biomaterials that show promise for being able to maintain and eventually expand these stem cells outside of the body.
'An engineered bone marrow will be of enormous value for treating haematopoietic cancers such as leukaemia, but also for understanding the process of bone marrow failure and other haematopoietic diseases.'
Source: Choi JS, Harley BAC. Marrow-inspired matrix cues rapidly affect early fate decisions of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Science Advances 24 February 2017; doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1600455.
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