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Biomaterials. 2013 Nov;34(34):8607-16. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.07.066. Epub 2013 Aug 9.

Non-invasive monitoring of cell metabolism and lipid production in 3D engineered human adipose tissues using label-free multiphoton microscopy.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tufts University, 4 Colby Street, Medford, MA 02155, United States.


Non-linear optical microscopy methods can characterize over time multiple functional properties of engineered tissues during development. Here, we demonstrate how the combined use of third-harmonic generation (THG) and two-photon excited fluorescence (2PEF) imaging can provide direct quantitative biomarkers of adipogenic stem cell differentiation and metabolic state, respectively. Specifically, we imaged over nine weeks silk scaffolds embedded with human mesenchymal stem cells and exposed to either propagation (PM) or adipogenic differentiation media (AM). THG was employed to visualize the formation of lipid droplets. 2PEF was used to assess the metabolic state of the cells through the redox ratio defined based on the endogenous FAD and NADH fluorescence. The redox ratio of cells in the AM scaffold was significantly lower than that in the PM scaffold during week 5 and 9, and correlated with significant increases in lipid-to-cell volume ratio, and number and size of lipid droplets in the AM scaffold. These findings indicate that the decrease in redox ratio during adipogenic differentiation is associated with fatty acid synthesis and lipid accumulation. Our methods therefore enabled us to identify and measure dynamic correlations between lipid droplet formation and cell metabolic state, while providing insight on the spatial heterogeneity of the observed signals.


Adipogenic differentiation; Lipid droplets; Redox ratio; Stem cell metabolism; Third-harmonic generation; Two-photon excited fluorescence

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