Research Project

Functional Nanofiber Scaffolds for Stem Cell Expansion

The overall objective of this research is to develop biofunctional polymeric scaffolds that can mimic the extracellular matrix microenvironment and support the desired cellular behaviors such as adhesion, migration and proliferation of adult stem cells, while maintaining their phenotype.

The overall objective of this research is to develop biofunctional polymeric scaffolds that can mimic the extracellular matrix microenvironment and support the desired cellular behaviors such as adhesion, migration and proliferation of adult stem cells, while maintaining their phenotype. Such a scaffold not only provides an efficient substrate and method to expand adult stem cells for regenerative cell therapy, but also provides a unique tool to study stem cell-substrate interaction, which is critical to the identification of the important microenvironment cues that control stem cell behaviors.

Scaffold serves as an artificial ECM, providing cells with a microenvironment necessary for tissue repair and regeneration. In addition to providing the appropriate 3-D topography, scaffold like ECM may also provide biochemical signals that influence cell adhesion, migration, proliferation, differentiation and functions.

We have developed a series of polymeric nanofiber scaffolds with relevant surface-bound biochemical and topographical cues for hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) expansion and for neural stem cell (NSC) expansion. Such a nanofiber scaffold, in combination with soluble growth factors and cytokines in the medium, could serve as an artificial stem cell niche to provide stem cells with a microenvironment specific for self-renewal and proliferation. For example, a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fiber scaffold with immobilized fibronectin has been shown to be more effective for HSC expansion, compared to the fibronectin modified planar substrate. We have also shown that nanofiber scaffolds with different surface functional groups exhibit different efficiencies for HSC expansion. The long-term objective of this study is to understand the mechanism of stem cell fate-choice (self-renewal vs. differentiation) at the interplay of biochemical cues and topographical cues, through a biomaterials engineering approach.

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