Liquid crystals show promise in controlling embryonic stem cells

March 9, 2006 | Source: KurzweilAI

UW-Madison researchers have shown that by straining mechanically the cells as they grow, it is possible to reduce significantly and almost eliminate the uncontrolled differentiation of stem cells.

“Stem cells tend to be smaller and have a slightly more compact shape than the differentiated cells,” says chemical and biological engineer Sean Palecek. “Differentiated cells appear to be much more spread and they appear to exert different levels of force on the matrix in which they are grown. That force can be read to a liquid crystal. Through simple changes of liquid crystal texture and color, our cell culture system is able to report, in real time, the cell interactions with the underlying support on which they are grown.”

“This newly devised cell culture system enables a new paradigm in stem cell research,” says chemical and biological engineer and MRSEC Director Juan de Pablo. “Ultimately, we hope to use liquid crystalline materials to transmit desired sets of physical and chemical cues to stem cells so as to control their differentiation, as well as report back specific responses of the cells or tissue.”

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison news release