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Biomaterials. 2006 Dec;27(36):6032-42. Epub 2006 Aug 1.

3-D microwell culture of human embryonic stem cells.

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1
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1415 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.

Abstract

Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the ability to proliferate indefinitely and differentiate into each of the embryonic cell lineages. Great care is required to maintain undifferentiated hESC cultures since spontaneous differentiation often occurs in culture, presumably resulting from soluble factors, cell-cell contact, and/or cell-matrix signaling. hESC differentiation is typically stimulated via generation of embryoid bodies (EBs) and lineage commitment of individual cells depends upon numerous cues throughout the EB environment, including EB shape and size. Common EB formation protocols, however, produce a very heterogeneous size distribution, perhaps reducing efficiency of directed differentiation. We have developed a 3-D microwell-based method to maintain undifferentiated hESC cultures for weeks without passaging using physical and extracellular matrix patterning constraints to limit colony growth. Over 90% of hESCs cultured in microwells for 2-3 weeks were viable and expressed the hESC transcription marker Oct-4. Upon passaging to Matrigel-coated tissue culture-treated polystyrene dishes (TCPS), microwell cultured hESCs maintained undifferentiated proliferation. Microwell culture also permits formation of hESC colonies with a defined size, which can then be used to form monodisperse EBs. When cultured in this system, hESCs retained pluripotency and self-renewal, and were able to be passaged to standard unconstrained culture conditions.

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