Research which improves the speed, precision of ste

image: Alan Bowling
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Credit: UT Arlington

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington are working to create a simulation technique that better predicts how stem cells develop into specific cells, such as bones or skin.

The team, led by associate professor of mechanical engineering Alan Bowling, uses a two-year grant of $ 416,000 from the National Institutes of Health for the work. The co-principal investigators are Michael Cho, professor and chair of the bioengineering department, and Hyejin Moon, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The team has developed a new way to simulate cell mechanics with a technique that reflects the movement of cell contents in a process that affects stem cell differentiation. The differentiation of stem cells has applications in tissue repair, regeneration and wound healing.

Simulation helps predict the initial conditions of a stem cell that will successfully differentiate into a desired cell type. If a scientist manages to determine the initial conditions, it will be possible to predict in advance what the cell will become. If cells are developed for a skin transplant, for example, scientists could increase the yield of a 90% batch of skin cells by starting with stem cells whose characteristics indicate they will differentiate in that direction.

Cho’s research suggests that the key trigger for stem cell differentiation is based on mechanical signaling. He found that there is a correlation between the size of the cell’s nucleus and whether it will differentiate into the desired cell type.

“We can get results fast, which leads to high yields of the specific tissue, so there are bigger consequences if we are successful,” Bowling said. “This technique seems to predict behavior that the classic and standard models do not. This allows us to do simulations that we cannot do with other techniques, and we can get results much faster than conventional techniques.

The team managed to shorten the computer simulations of several years of the 15-day differentiation process to around 90 minutes, Bowling said. Current stem cell experiments can take up to two weeks, and there is no way to tell what the results will be.

Moon’s experiments aim to produce microfluidic conditions that mimic the intracellular environment, including different viscosity and density of enzymes and proteins in cells, to study what happens when stem cells differentiate.

Cho said the collaboration between the three scientists is leading to some exciting developments.

“Determining why some stem cells respond as expected and others don’t has frustrated researchers in this area for years,” Cho said. “The accuracy of Dr. Bowling’s models will allow me to confidently predict the mechanobiological behavior of cells in different environments in a fraction of the time, and Dr. Moon’s expertise will allow us to go into the finer details of what is happening.” passes inside the stem cells. “

  • Written by Jeremy Agor, College of Engineering

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