One of the biggest challenges in regenerative medicine is how to control the behaviour of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). It seems that simply changing the surface on which they grow can help. The image on the right shows a colony of ESCs on glass; on the left are cells growing on thousands of tiny silica colloidal crystals. After five days the colony on silica has multiple layers of cells (nuclei stained blue) clustered together in a ball. In contrast, on glass cells grow in a single layer and spread out, forming long fibres (gold). Researchers think the shape of silica crystals keeps cells from spreading and stops them differentiating [becoming different cell types]. Culturing ESCs in this way could help produce the homogeneous cell populations required to generate tissues and organs.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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