Current Stem Cell Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 13–21 | Cite as

Extracellular Matrix Regulation of Stem Cell Fate

  • Quinton Smith
  • Sharon GerechtEmail author
Stem Cell Switches and Regulators (KK Hirschi, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Stem Cell Switches and Regulators


Purpose of Review

The extracellular matrix (ECM) presents a complex myriad of biochemical and physical cues in the stem cell niche and is able to modulate stem cell fate and function. This review summarizes engineering approaches that have exploited natural and synthetic biomaterials to understand ECM regulation of stem cell fate. Specifically, we demonstrate how these studies have advanced our understanding of vascular maturation and mesenchymal lineage specification.

Recent Findings

ECM mechanics have emerged as a critical cue in stem cell lineage specification. With the introduction of mechanically dynamic materials, which mirror the non-linear elastic behavior of natural matrices, our understanding of differentiation behavior has evolved.


While studies using conventional culture employing rigid, two-dimensional surfaces have greatly advanced our understanding of stem cell differentiation, they overlook the complexity of ECM in the stem cell environment. Implementing defined analogs, through material science and tissue engineering approaches, will allow us to mirror the dynamic nature of ECM and fully elucidate how stem cells differentiate.


Stem cell differentiation Hydrogels Cell fate Mesenchymal stem cells Tissue engineering Material science 



We would like to give thanks and recognition to the institutions who provided funding for the mentioned studies from our lab including the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation, Maryland Stem Cell Fund and American Heart Association.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Quinton Smith and Sharon Gerecht declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as:• Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Physical Sciences-Oncology Center and the Institute for NanoBioTechnologyJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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