Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to become almost any kind of mature cell in our body – as long as the appropriate conditions are provided to them. We can find these cells in a variety of tissues in our body, such as bone and fat. These cells can be isolated from the body and afterwards expanded in the lab. They can then be differentiated into almost any desired lineage, such as bone, cartilage, muscle and adipose tissue. The way to do this is normally using complex cell culture media. However, the compositions of these culture media are not always well-known or understood – as they are proprietary to the private companies that provide them. In this Café, we will show that we can design biomaterials with different properties so that they can direct the behaviour of stem cells. For example: by culturing these cells on stiff surfaces, they become bone; while on soft materials, they result in adipose or cartilage cells. Stem cells will be introduced and explained by the way cells communicate with their environment, including material surfaces, and how, by understanding this language, we can design better biomaterials that control stem cell behaviour in very precise ways. This has important consequences in addressing a number of degenerative diseases currently without any treatment; eg: musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular problems and neurological disorders.
Prof Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez is the Head of the Biomedical Engineering Research Division in the School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow. He is the holder of an ERC Consolidator grant (2013-2018) and leads a multidisciplinary group working at the cell/material interface (Microenvironments for Medicine – Mime http://www.mimeresearch.com).
Join in the session at the Science Centre Singapore on 18 November 2015, 7pm