Fluid shear stress modulation of embryonic stem cell differentiation

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Nsiah, Barbara Akua
Nerem, Robert M.
McDevitt, Todd C.
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Vascularization of tissue-engineered substitutes is imperative for successful implantation into sites of injury. Strategies to promote vascularization within tissue-engineered constructs have focused on incorporating endothelial or endothelial progenitor cells within the construct. However, since endothelial and endothelial progenitor cells are adult cell types and limited in number, acquiring quantities needed for regenerative medicine applications is not feasible. Pluriopotent stem cells have been explored as a cell source for tissue-engineered substitutes because of their inherent ability to differentiate into all somatic cell types, including endothelial cells (ECs). Current EC differentiation strategies require laborious and extensive culture periods, utilize large quantities of expensive growth factors and extracellular matrix, and generally yield heterogenous populations for which only a small percentage of the differentiated cells are ECs. In order to recapitulate in vivo embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation, 3D stem cell aggregates or embryoid bodies (EBs) have been employed in vitro. In the developing embryo, fluid shear stress, VEGF, and oxygen are instructive cues for endothelial differentiation and vasculogenesis. Thus, the objective of this work was to study the effects of fluid shear stress pre-conditioning of ESCs on EB endothelial differentiation and vasculogensis. The overall hypothesis is that exposing ESCs to fluid shear stress prior to EB differentiation will promote EB endothelial differentiation and vasculogenesis. Pre-conditioning ESCs with fluid shear stress modulated EB differentiation as well as endothelial cell-like cellular organization and EB morphogenesis. To further promote endothelial differentiation, ESCs pre-conditioned with shear were treated with VEGF. Exposing EBs formed from ESCs pre-conditioned with shear to low oxygen resulted in increased production of VEGF and formation of endothelial networks. The results of this work demonstrate the role that physical forces play in modulating stem cell fate and morphogenesis.
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