Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Using geometry, researchers coax human embryonic stem cells to organize themselves

Date:
June 30, 2014
Source:
Rockefeller University
Summary:
By confining colonies of human embryonic stem cells to tiny circular patterns on glass plates, researchers have for the first time coaxed them into organizing themselves just as they would under natural conditions.

Growth pattern. Forty-two hours after they began to differentiate, embryonic cells are clearly segregating into endoderm (red), mesoderm (blue) and ectoderm (black). Researchers say the key to achieving this patterning in culture is confining the colonies geometrically.
Credit: Image courtesy of Rockefeller University

About seven days after conception, something remarkable occurs in the clump of cells that will eventually become a new human being. They start to specialize. They take on characteristics that begin to hint at their ultimate fate as part of the skin, brain, muscle or any of the roughly 200 cell types that exist in people, and they start to form distinct layers.

Related Articles


Although scientists have studied this process in animals, and have tried to coax human embryonic stem cells into taking shape by flooding them with chemical signals, until now the process has not been successfully replicated in the lab. But researchers led by Ali Brivanlou, Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Professor and head of the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Molecular Embryology at The Rockefeller University, have done it, and it turns out that the missing ingredient is geometrical, not chemical.

"Understanding what happens in this moment, when individual members of this mass of embryonic stem cells begin to specialize for the very first time and organize themselves into layers, will be a key to harnessing the promise of regenerative medicine," Brivanlou says. "It brings us closer to the possibility of replacement organs grown in petri dishes and wounds that can be swiftly healed."

In the uterus, human embryonic stem cells receive chemical cues from the surrounding tissue that signal them to begin forming layers -- a process called gastrulation. Cells in the center begin to form ectoderm, the brain and skin of the embryo, while those migrating to the outside become mesoderm and endoderm, destined to become muscle and blood and many of the major organs, respectively.

Brivanlou and his colleagues, including postdocs Aryeh Warmflash and Benoit Sorre as well as Eric Siggia, Viola Ward Brinning and Elbert Calhoun Brinning Professor and head of the Laboratory of Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics, confined human embryonic stem cells originally derived at Rockefeller to tiny circular patterns on glass plates that had been chemically treated to form "micropatterns" that prevent the colonies from expanding outside a specific radius. When the researchers introduced chemical signals spurring the cells to begin gastrulation, they found the colonies that were geometrically confined in this way proceeded to form endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm and began to organize themselves just as they would have under natural conditions. Cells that were not confined did not.

By monitoring specific molecular pathways the human cells use to communicate with one another to form patterns during gastrulation -- something that was not previously possible because of the lack of a suitable laboratory model -- the researchers also learned how specific inhibitory signals generated in response to the initial chemical cues function to prevent the cells within a colony from all following the same developmental path.

The research was published June 29 in Nature Methods.

"At the fundamental level, what we have developed is a new model to explore how human embryonic stem cells first differentiate into separate populations with a very reproducible spatial order just as in an embryo," says Warmflash. "We can now follow individual cells in real time in order to find out what makes them specialize, and we can begin to ask questions about the underlying genetics of this process."

The research also has direct implications for biologists working to create "pure" populations of specific cells, or engineered tissues consisting of multiple cell types, for use in medical treatments. "These cells have a powerful intrinsic tendency to form patterns as they develop," Warmflash says. "Varying the geometry of the colonies may turn out to be an important tool that can be used to guide stem cells to form specific cell types or tissues."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rockefeller University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aryeh Warmflash, Benoit Sorre, Fred Etoc, Eric D Siggia, Ali H Brivanlou. A method to recapitulate early embryonic spatial patterning in human embryonic stem cells. Nature Methods, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3016

Cite This Page:

Rockefeller University. "Using geometry, researchers coax human embryonic stem cells to organize themselves." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164558.htm>.
Rockefeller University. (2014, June 30). Using geometry, researchers coax human embryonic stem cells to organize themselves. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164558.htm
Rockefeller University. "Using geometry, researchers coax human embryonic stem cells to organize themselves." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140630164558.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) — A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) — Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) — A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold

Hugging It Out Could Help You Ward Off A Cold

Newsy (Dec. 21, 2014) — Carnegie Mellon researchers found frequent hugs can help people avoid stress-related illnesses. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins