Better performing stem cells for repairing nerve injury created in a 3D culture system
Three-dimensional cell cultures, more closely mimicking the cells’ natural environment, are increasingly used for better drug testing, and could also help repair damaged tissues. To this end, researchers developed a technique to culture human neural stem cells (hNSCs) on a scaffold of self-assembling peptides, artificial proteins which self-organise into 3D structures. Unlike other methods, this approach does not involve animal tissues, making it more suitable for human patients. Initial tests in rats with spinal cord injuries suggest that transplants with these cultures can boost recovery of neural tissues: hNSCs successfully implanted and differentiated into various neural cell types, and the rats’ mobility improved. Transplanted hNSCs performed even better when they were cultured for six weeks and encouraged to start differentiating before transplantation (as pictured, with cell nuclei in blue, neurons in green and supportive astrocytes in red), yielding new insights into how stem cell transplants can be made more effective.
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