When cultured in the laboratory, stem cells can form tissues that are commonly found in our own body. However, the size, shape and organization that what stem cells make in culture tends to not resemble what is observed in our bodies.
There are ways to coax stem cells to make tissues that more closely resemble those in our bodies. This includes growing stem cells on “biomimetic” scaffolds that have the same shape and organization as our own tissues. Such scaffolds direct the growth and organization of the stem cells and the tissues that form so that they more closely resemble our own.
Researchers from Singapore at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and collaborators, led by Zu-yong Wang, have invented a clever and innovative method that creates a stretched polymer scaffold that supports complex tissue architecture. By stretching this polymer (poly ε-caprolactone for the interested) thin-film, it can actually produce scaffolds that can support the growth of mesenchymal stem cells.
This stretching process generates a nice three-dimensional with micro-grooves that are oriented on the surface of the film. These grooves direct stem cells to grow in a neatly aligned fashion that can develop into tissues as the stem cells grow on and eventually degrade and absorb the scaffold. Such a finding advances tissue engineering research, the goal of which is to use stem cells to remake new organs to replace damaged or disease ones.