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Annu Rev Anal Chem (Palo Alto Calif). 2012;5:293-315. doi: 10.1146/annurev-anchem-062011-143122. Epub 2012 Apr 9.

Probing embryonic stem cell autocrine and paracrine signaling using microfluidics.

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1
Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.

Abstract

Although stem cell fate is traditionally manipulated by exogenously altering the cells' extracellular signaling environment, the endogenous autocrine and paracrine signals produced by the cells also contribute to their two essential processes: self-renewal and differentiation. Autocrine and/or paracrine signals are fundamental to both embryonic stem cell self-renewal and early embryonic development, but the nature and contributions of these signals are often difficult to fully define using conventional methods. Microfluidic techniques have been used to explore the effects of cell-secreted signals by controlling cell organization or by providing precise control over the spatial and temporal cellular microenvironment. Here we review how such techniques have begun to be adapted for use with embryonic stem cells, and we illustrate how many remaining questions in embryonic stem cell biology could be addressed using microfluidic technologies.

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