As stem cells differentiate into functional specialized cells, the process is controlled through signals from their surroundings. In a recent paper published in Nature Materials, this CEMB study suggests that cells may have more control over their fate than previously thought. The study found that cells secrete proteins within hours of being encapsulated in specialized hydrogels and that those proteins played an important role in changing the extracellular environment and regulating cells’ behavior, including cell fate determination. The cells essentially determined their own function by shaping their environment through proteins.
This work was led by Jason Burdick (Penn Bioengineering) and Claudia Loebel (a postdoc in his lab) along with Rob Mauck (Perelman School of Medicine). A link to the publication is here.