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Cell Transplant. 2011;20(1):37-47. doi: 10.3727/096368910X532756. Epub 2010 Nov 5.

Differentiation of stem cells: strategies for modifying surface biomaterials.

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Center for Neuropsychiatry, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan.


Stem cells are a natural choice for cellular therapy because of their potential to differentiate into a variety of lineages, their capacity for self-renewal in the repair of damaged organs and tissues in vivo, and their ability to generate tissue constructs in vitro. Determining how to efficiently drive stem cell differentiation to a lineage of choice is critical for the success of cellular therapeutics. Many factors are involved in this process, the extracellular microenvironment playing a significant role in controlling cellular behavior. In recent years, researchers have focused on identifying a variety of biomaterials to provide a microenvironment that is conducive to stem cell growth and differentiation and that ultimately mimics the in vivo situation. Appropriate biomaterials support the cellular attachment, proliferation, and lineage-specific differentiation of stem cells. Tissue engineering approaches have been used to incorporate growth factors and morphogenetic factors-factors known to induce lineage commitment of stem cells-into cultures with scaffolding materials, including synthetic and naturally derived biomaterials. This review focuses on various strategies that have been used in stem cell expansion and examines modifications of natural and synthetic materials, as well as various culture conditions, for the maintenance and lineage-specific differentiation of embryonic and adult stem cells.

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