October 23, 2006
When stretched, a type of adult stem cell taken from bone marrow can be nudged towards becoming the type of tissue found in blood vessels, according to a new study by bioengineers from Bioengineering Professor Song Li’s tissue engineering lab at UC Berkeley.
The findings, published today in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlight the importance of mechanical forces in stem cell differentiation.
Researchers placed mesenchymal stem cells, extracted from bone marrow, onto a silicone membrane that was stretched longitudinally once every second. In an effort to better understand the factors that affect the eventual fate of mesenchymal stem cells, the researchers designed the experiment to simulate the physical forces a cell would encounter if it were to become a blood vessel.
“Stem cells seem to know the type of tissue they are supposed to become by the type of mechanical strain they are subjected to,” said Dr. Li.
Mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to turn into different types of connective tissue including bone, cartilage and muscle. Experiments in stem cell differentiation, however, have traditionally relied upon chemical signals to prompt this transformation into the desired cell type.
Song Li, UC Berkeley associate professor of bioengineering and principal investigator of the study, heads one of the leading research groups in the country investigating the role of a stem cell’s physical environment on its development. Lead author of the study was Kyle Kurpinski, graduate student in the UCB/UCSF Bioengineering Program. Other co-authors of the study are Julia Chu, a research associate in Li’s lab, and Craig Hashi, another Bioengineering graduate student.
Read the full story at the UC Berkeley News Center .
This research and graduate student Kyle Kurpinski have recently been featured in several news stories, including the San Francisco Chronicle , CBS news , and WebMD .