, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 1301-1315
Date: 19 Nov 2011

Engineering Approaches Toward Deconstructing and Controlling the Stem Cell Environment

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Stem cell-based therapeutics have become a vital component in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The microenvironment within which stem cells reside, i.e., the niche, plays a crucial role in regulating stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. However, current biological techniques lack the means to recapitulate the complexity of this microenvironment. Nano- and microengineered materials offer innovative methods to (1) deconstruct the stem cell niche to understand the effects of individual elements; (2) construct complex tissue-like structures resembling the niche to better predict and control cellular processes; and (3) transplant stem cells or activate endogenous stem cell populations for regeneration of aged or diseased tissues. In this article, we highlight some of the latest advances in this field and discuss future applications and directions of the use of nano- and microtechnologies for stem cell engineering.

Associate Editor Jennifer West oversaw the review of this article.