A research group led by Dr. Che-Ming Jack Hu of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at Academia Sinica in Taiwan developed an innovative cell-derived biomaterial system for robust expansion of stem cells, which has significant therapeutic implication in regeneration medicine and tissue engineering.
The capability of stem cells to differentiate into a wide spectrum of functional cell types presents compelling therapeutic values in tissue repair associated with cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and other malignancies, yet current strategies for stem cell maintenance and expansion based on live cell- and animal product-based culture systems have logistical and safety concerns that limit their scaled adoption. The present work demonstrates a novel hydrogelated feeder layer technology, which instills hydrogels into cellular monolayers to stabilize and preserve their functionality. Hydrogelated cellular monolayers retain the same cell surface protein moieties, membrane fluidity, and topology of live feeder cells, and they can be stored in the freezer for over 6 months without noticeable substrate alteration. More impressively, as the hydrogel-fixed cells do not compete for nutrients nor do they generate metabolites, the gelated feeder substrate outperforms liver feeder cells in expanding stem cells. The research group demonstrate the preparation of gelated feeder layer with human immortalized cells, which removes the safety and ethical concerns associated with the use of mouse primary feeder cells.
According to Dr. Che-Ming Hu, who specializes in biomimetic materials engineering, “The gelated feeder substrate is one example of the vast opportunities in biomimetic device research. Gelated cells combine the robustness of artificial materials with the complex intricacies of biological systems.” The group has applied the hydrogelated cellular system to other biomedical challenges, including pathogen detection and immune cell manipulation. Dr. Hu envisions many new research opportunities with the cell-mimicking biomaterials.
Dr. Che-Ming Jack Hu is an Associate Research Fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS). The research was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Patrick Hsieh and the Taiwan Human Disease iPSC Consortium Bank. The paper presenting the results entitled “In situ hydrogelation of cellular monolayers enables conformal biomembrane functionalization for xeno-free feeder substrate engineering” was published online in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials on December 3rd, 2022. Primary authors of the work include Dr. Grace Chien and Dr. Jung-Chen Lin.