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J Biomech. 2010 Jan 5;43(1):55-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.09.009. Epub 2009 Oct 2.

Intrinsic extracellular matrix properties regulate stem cell differentiation.

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Department of Engineering Materials, The Kroto Research Institute, University of Sheffield, S3 7HQ, UK.


One of the recent paradigm shifts in stem cell biology has been the discovery that stem cells can begin to differentiate into mature tissue cells when exposed to intrinsic properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM), such as matrix structure, elasticity, and composition. These parameters are known to modulate the forces a cell can exert upon its matrix. Mechano-sensitive pathways subsequently convert these biophysical cues into biochemical signals that commit the cell to a specific lineage. Just as with well-studied growth factors, ECM parameters are extremely dynamic and are spatially- and temporally-controlled during development, suggesting that they play a morphogenetic role in guiding differentiation and arrangement of cells. Our ability to dynamically regulate the stem cell niche as the body does is likely a critical requirement for developing differentiated cells from stem cells for therapeutic applications. Here, we present the emergence of stem cell mechanobiology and its future challenges with new biomimetic, three-dimensional scaffolds that are being used therapeutically to treat disease.

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