Stem Cells and Microstructures in 3D Gel
It is known that stem cells can differentiate into various cell types depending on the physical properties of their immediate surroundings. I am interested in engineering the cardiac microenvironment in order to coax differentiation of adult stem cells into cardiac muscle by inclusion of rod-shaped microstructures in a three-dimensional gel. Here, differential interference contrast and fluorescent imaging was used to show these microstructures (blue) interacting with a group of stem cells that were labeled red with commercially available quantum dots. The cells interact with the microstructures and the shape of the cells close to the rod is different from those away from it. The long-term goal of this research is to manipulate the microenvironment of the injured heart tissue to foster increased endogenous stem cell differentiation and, therefore, improve cardiac function.