Korean researchers have developed a technology of scaffolding stem cells with hydrogels so that injected stem cells can show differentiation at a designated lesion without spreading to the entire body.
A research team, led by Dr. Song Soo-chang at the Korea University of Science and Technology (KIST)’s Biomedical Science and Technology Division, said the results of their studies on “Stem Cell Differentiation Control Technology” and “Stem Cell Cartilage Tissue Regeneration Environment Optimization” were published in the latest issues of Biomaterials and Advanced Science, respectively.
|Dr. Song Soo-chang (right) at the Korea University of Science and Technology (KIST)’s Biomedical Science and Technology Division and research fellow Hong Ki-hyun show their development of hydrogels and stem cell injection. (Credit: KIST)|
Stem cell therapies developed by a conventional method are administered via intravenous injections, intraperitoneal injections, or direct injections into the treatment site. However, the existing method has a shortcoming that injected stem cells spread to the body quickly, making it hard to treat the desired site efficiently.
Stem cells’ survival rate declines once they get into the body, and it is difficult to control their differentiation, which was one of the reasons it was challenging to develop a tissue-customized therapy.
To overcome the challenges, the KIST research team used hydrogels, which are liquid at room temperature but rapidly change to hard gel at body temperature.
The researchers said they could wrap stem cells with hydrogels and make them injectable. The developed hydrogels can employ bioactive factors which can achieve the desired differentiation patterns of stem cells, the researchers explained.
By adjusting the quality and the ratio of hydrogels and various bioactive factors, the researchers raised the survival rate of stem cells and maximized the tissue generation effect with an environment where the desired differentiation was possible.
The researchers said they fined-tuned the bioactive factors in hydrogels to regenerate bone, cartilage, and adipose tissue out of mesenchymal stem cells as desired.
“By varying the types and dosages of bioactive factors according to diseases, this technology will apply to more fields, including not only customized tissue regeneration but immunotherapy and chemotherapy through research in the future,” Song said.