Graphene Scaffolds: Making Specialised Cells More Special
New methods to regulate stem cell differentiation is currently one of the hottest topics in stem cell research. This is the ability for these naïve cells to change into a wide range of matured specialised cells, such as blood cells, liver cells or tissue cells. Existing methods are labour, cost and time-intensive, as they require culture methods with the repeated addition of various differentiation factors. The NUS Centre for Advanced 2D Materials has developed biocompatible Graphene Scaffolds that can be used for seeding and accelerating stem cell differentiation. The key benefit of these Graphene Scaffolds is that they do not require the addition of any growth factors.
The Graphene Scaffolds consist of substrates coated with a single layer of graphene. These biocompatible graphene sheets can be easily transferred to common culture surfaces. In addition, graphene can be coated on all standard cell culture surfaces. The research team is also working on 3D Graphene Scaffolds for more potential therapeutic applications, preparing graphene-covered substrates on a larger scale and transferring graphene onto other target substrate materials.
Applications and Advantages
Cultured cells are required in wide range of basic research, drug discovery and future therapeutic/ diagnostic applications, so there is a strong market demand for more effective stem cell differentiation methods. These Graphene Scaffolds are superior, as differentiation occurs at approximately the same rate as traditional methods, despite the absence of any growth factors. The technology has been used to successfully differentiate stem cells into adult bone cells, muscle cells and liver cells. These mature cells have future potential applications.
For example, in a separate study using traditional differentiation techniques, the NUS Department of Pharmacy has demonstrated that when stem cells differentiated into liver cells, these matured cells preserved their morphological and phenotypic characteristics. The liver cells were able to perform key functions, such as urea synthesis, albumin secretion, uptake and elimination of dyes (typically used to test how well a liver is working) and enzymatic activities. As such, it is possible that liver cells created via this new differentiation method could be a good source for drug screening or liver toxicity tests.
NUS has applied for a patent for this technology and is seeking partners to further develop this technology.
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