Published on March 31, 2011 at 1:28 AM
"Our 3D technique aims to recreate the nutrients, oxygen levels and mechanical forces that these cells would normally experience inside our bodies. By growing the cells as 3D spheres of microscopic size instead of in a 2D layer, they specialise their roles more rapidly and more completely and also appear to be able to become a greater range of cell types. This shows that they are quite a bit more versatile than we thought and so are a very exciting prospect for the use of these cells in therapies."
The spheres used are made of aggregates of MSCs and are tiny, measuring only 200-300 micrometers across - about half the size of a dust mite. Within these spheres it is possible to monitor the effects of interactions between several cells and between cells and other supporting structures. The MSCs can also be combined with other types of cells that they would usually be associated with such as endothelial cells, which are found on the surfaces of blood vessels.
Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said "Stem cells are a vital part of normal development and healthy repair. Stem cell biology is subtle and complicated and this discovery will help to ensure that results from laboratory experiments offer a good approximation of what is happening with stem cells under normal circumstances inside humans and other animals."
Source: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council