Instructive Biomaterials for Stem Cell Differentiation

Funding Type: 
SEED Grant
Grant Number: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
Disease Focus: 
Parkinson's Disease
Neurological Disorders
Stem Cell Use: 
Embryonic Stem Cell
Public Abstract: 
Embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the potential to differentiate into all adult cell types and will have profound applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. However, a thorough understanding of how to control stem cells so that a wide range of different cells, bone, muscle, nerve, etc. can be obtained is not known. It is proposed to simulate conditions in the human body by combining for the first time both mechanical and biological control in the differentiation of stem cell. Using state of the art polymer chemistry, cell scaffolds which combine all of these features will be prepared and the right conditions for each type of stem cells determined. Due to the huge range of possible variables we will also take advantage of highly parallel arrays of scaffolds which will allow thousands of different conditions to be evaluated at the same time, greatly increasing the speed of discovery. This interdisciplinary represents a new paradigm that will be used to screen for conditions that reproducibly and specifically generate all cell types from a single parent source of stem cells.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
The ability to produce desired cells lines for the treatment and study of disease is of paramount importance for California from both a social and economic viewpoint. In this proposal we will initially design arrays of synthetic polymer scaffolds that will be used to control the differentiation of retinal cells that are useful in treating Age-related macular Degeneration as well as Parkinson’s disease. Both of these diseases are particularly relevant for California’s population due to climate and population demographics. The techniques that will be developed to optimize these polymer scaffolds will allow thousands of different conditions to be examined at the same time which represents a new approach in this field that will allow the differentiation of stem cells into virtually any other cell to be accurately controlled and predicted. This represents a significant business opportunity for California and the implications for tissue engineering to repair traumatic injury and treat disease is profound.
Progress Report: 
  • Parkinson’s disease is the most common movement disorder due to the degeneration of brain dopaminergic neurons. One strategy to combat the disease is to replenish these neurons in the patients, either through transplantation of stem cell-derived dopaminergic neurons, or through promoting endogenous dopaminergic neuronal production or survival. We have carried out a small molecule based screen to identify compounds that can affect the development and survival of dopaminergic neurons from pluripotent stem cells. The small molecules that we have identified will not only serve as important research tools for understanding dopaminergic neuron development and survival, but potentially could also lead to therapeutics in the induction of dopaminergic neurons for treating Parkinson’s disease.

© 2013 California Institute for Regenerative Medicine