20.109(S10):T/R Purple Research Proposal

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Research Problem / Overview

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a key candidate for use in a variety of therapeutic treatments, as their increased potency has the potential to cure diseases that other remedies cannot; however, the proper differentiation and effectiveness of MSC treatment still depends on a variety of factors such as external cell (niche) signals, the physical environment (ie ECM), and endogenous properties of the cells. We believe that useful research can be done to investigate the optimal conditions for MSC treatment, depending on the target tissue and disease in question. In particular, our research question will focus on the role of exogenous factors, specifically the effect of external environmental conditions and extracellular signals*, on the effectiveness of MSCs in tissue repair.

  • Note: The factors we're investigating are tentative, since there are lots of potential factors worth researching. We might actually look into some really exotic ones, such as the magnet article cited below. Also, we haven't settled on which (if any) tissue type is optimal for this research question. Lots of work seems to have been done on cardiac tissue, though bone and other muscle are alternate targets of interest.

Background Information

  • Research into MSCs have shown they are useful in recovery of cardiac tissue after heart attacks. Specifically, in blood and nutrient-restricted myoblasts, cell-to-cell interactions with MSCs were able to restore livelihood as compared to the ischemic cells without MSC treatment.
  • Additionally, MSC activity can be affected in a variety of manners, such as the expression of expression of receptors such as CD44 and CXCR-4, which encourage MSC migration to damaged tissue. These extracellular signals can affect MSC movement, activity, as well as plasticity and regenerative capacity.
  • MSC growth and ability to function also appears to be dependent upon ECM conditions, as in vitro, the cell function depended both on rigidity and topography of the engineered growth matrix.
  • Interestingly, stem cell migration is further modulated by factors that would not seem to be obvious, such as magnetism. In tests, only 10% of MSCs were found to normally be retained in a site of injection, but under magnets, the rate of retention of these cells was tripled.