Tiny scaffolding allows stem cells to become working fat cells

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers here have used a new microscopic, three-dimensional scaffolding to coax mouse stem cells to transform themselves into fat cells, and then to function identical to how fat cells naturally do in the body.

While other studies have previously grown fat cells, or adipocytes, in the laboratory, those cells never completely functioned in the same way they do in normal tissue. They failed to produce the genetic and biologic components that all cells require to do their work.

This discovery offers hope of a new approach to growing fat tissue for use in breast reconstruction surgery and other clinical needs, and may even be important for curing type II diabetes.

Douglas Kniss, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and of biomedical engineering at Ohio State University, reported this progress in the current issue of the journal Tissue Engineering.

"There is a serious shortage of transplantable organs available for thousands of patients nationally," Kniss said. "One ultimate goal of this work might be creating new tissue that could serve either as a temporary substitute while waiting for a donor organ, or even providing a replacement organ."

Along with Xihai Kang and Yubing Xie, both postdoctoral fellows in his laboratory, Kniss built a fabric-like carpet of polyethylene terephathalene (PET), or Dacron, fibers that served as scaffolding upon which new fat cells were grown.

In conventional cell cultures, cells usually grow as flat deposits bathed in growth medium. While useful, these "two-dimensional" patches fail to mimic all the tasks performed by cells in vivo. Specific genes, proteins and hormones normally produced by healthy cells are often absent in two-dimensional colonies.

"The PET fibers are spun out onto a mat that resembles the intracellular matrix that bonds cells together in normal tissue. The fibers are about the size of a collagen fiber, several nanometers (a billionth of a mete

Contact: Douglas Kniss
Ohio State University

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