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Mesenchymal stem cell adhesion but not plasticity is affected by high substrate stiffness

Author(s): Janice Kal Van Tam, Koichiro Uto, Mitsuhiro Ebara, Stefania Pagliari, Giancarlo Forte and Takao Aoyagi

Journal: Science and Technology of Advanced Materials
ISSN 1468-6996

Volume: 13;
Issue: 6;
Start page: 064205;
Date: 2012;
Original page

The acknowledged ability of synthetic materials to induce cell-specific responses regardless of biological supplies provides tissue engineers with the opportunity to find the appropriate materials and conditions to prepare tissue-targeted scaffolds. Stem and mature cells have been shown to acquire distinct morphologies in vitro and to modify their phenotype when grown on synthetic materials with tunable mechanical properties. The stiffness of the substrate used for cell culture is likely to provide cells with mechanical cues mimicking given physiological or pathological conditions, thus affecting the biological properties of cells. The sensitivity of cells to substrate composition and mechanical properties resides in multiprotein complexes called focal adhesions, whose dynamic modification leads to cytoskeleton remodeling and changes in gene expression. In this study, the remodeling of focal adhesions in human mesenchymal stem cells in response to substrate stiffness was followed in the first phases of cell–matrix interaction, using poly-ε-caprolactone planar films with similar chemical composition and different elasticity. As compared to mature dermal fibroblasts, mesenchymal stem cells showed a specific response to substrate stiffness, in terms of adhesion, as a result of differential focal adhesion assembly, while their multipotency as a bulk was not significantly affected by matrix compliance. Given the sensitivity of stem cells to matrix mechanics, the mechanobiology of such cells requires further investigations before preparing tissue-specific scaffolds.
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