Union is strength: matrix elasticity and microenvironmental factors codetermine stem cell differentiation fate
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Stem cells are an attractive cellular source for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering applications due to their multipotency. Although the elasticity of the extracellular matrix (ECM) has been shown to have crucial impacts in directing stem cell differentiation, it is not the only contributing factor. Many researchers have recently attempted to design microenvironments that mimic the stem cell niche with combinations of ECM elasticity and other cues, such as ECM physical properties, soluble biochemical factors and cell–cell interactions, thereby driving cells towards their preferred lineages. Here, we briefly discuss the effect of matrix elasticity on stem cell lineage specification and then summarize recent advances in the study of the combined effects of ECM elasticity and other cues on the differentiation of stem cells, focusing on two aspects: biophysical and biochemical factors. In the future, biomedical scientists will continue investigating the union strength of matrix elasticity and microenvironmental cues for manipulating stem cell fates.
KeywordsMatrix elasticity Biophysical factor Biochemical factor Stem cells Differentiation
The authors thank William Orr, M.D., University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, for his assistance in writing. This work was supported by the State Key Development Program for Basic Research of China (Grant No. 2011CB606201), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31150007, 31201052), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 20090450415 and 201003125), Bethune Medical Research Support Program and Advanced Interdisciplinary Innovation Project (Grant No. 2013101004).
Conflicts of interest
The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.
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