Users of the Molecular Foundry created a mimic of proteoglycans – surface-bound sugars – that are critical in the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into neural cells.
Significance and Impact
Since natural sugars are difficult to manage, the development of proteoglycan mimics could significantly decrease the cost and complexity of tissue engineering and stem cell therapy.
- Embryonic stem cells are able to differentiate into a variety of different tissues.
- Stem cell differentiation is determined by growth factor signaling, which is mediated by proteoglycans, long chains of sugars that are bound to protein surfaces.
- Working at the Molecular Foundry, researchers synthesized glycopolymers to mimic the function of proteoglycans and facilitate the function of fibroblast growth factor 2, one of the growth factors involved in neural development.
- Similar mimics could lead to additional strategies to influence a variety of cellular behaviors.