Biotechnol J. 2017 Sep;12(9). doi: 10.1002/biot.201700360.

Substrate Curvature Restricts Spreading and Induces Differentiation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells.

Lee SJ1, Yang S1.

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 West University Boulevard, Melbourne, FL, 32901, USA.


While cells attach, spread, migrate, proliferate, and differentiate in three-dimensional (3D) micromechanical environments, the mechanical factors of these environments influence the shapes, sizes, and adhesion forces of the cells. Here, the authors culture human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) on a unique class of curvature-defined substrates, micro glass ball embedded polyacrylamide gels, prepared with an improved protocol, and investigate the spreading responses of the hMSCs on the glass balls to study the effects of substrate curvature on the spreading of hMSCs. The authors find that, among the used diameters of glass balls, the minimum diameter of a glass ball on which an hMSC can attach and spread is 500 μm. In contrast to the well-spread morphologies with randomly-multiple lamellipodia for the hMSCs growing on the flat glass plates, the morphologies of the hMSCs growing on the glass balls are almost uniformly spindle-shaped with two lamellipodia. The sensitivities of the attachment and spreading morphology of an hMSC to substrate curvature are very different from those of a fibroblast. The RT-PCR analysis reveals that the substrate curvature alone can induce adipogenesis of the hMSCs. These findings imply that substrate curvature has profound effects on stem cell behaviors, and detailed and in-depth studies on these effects and their underlying biophysical mechanisms are necessary.


differentiation; micro glass ball embedded gel; stem cell; substrate curvature; three-dimensional (3D) micromechanical environment