Tina Tronser, Anna Laromaine, Anna Roig, and Pavel A. Levkin*. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2018, 10 (19), pp 16260–16269.
Stem cells possess unique properties, such as the ability to self-renew and the potential to differentiate into an organism’s various cell types. These make them highly valuable in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. Their properties are precisely regulated in vivo through complex mechanisms that include multiple cues arising from the cell interaction with the surrounding extracellular matrix, neighboring cells, and soluble factors. Although much research effort has focused on developing systems and materials that mimic this complex microenvironment, the controlled regulation of differentiation and maintenance of stemness in vitro remains elusive. In this work, we demonstrate, for the first time, that the nanofibrous bacterial cellulose (BC) membrane derived from Komagataeibacter xylinus can inhibit the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC) under long-term conditions (17 days), improving their mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF)-free cultivation in comparison to the MEF-supported conventional culture. The maintained cells’ pluripotency was confirmed by the mESCs’ ability to differentiate into the three germ layers (endo-, meso-, and ectoderm) after having been cultured on the BC membrane for 6 days. In addition, the culturing of mESCs on flexible, free-standing BC membranes enables the quick and facile manipulation and transfer of stem cells between culture dishes, both of which significantly facilitate the use of stem cells in routine culture and various applications. To investigate the influence of the structural and topographical properties of the cellulose on stem cell differentiation, we used the cellulose membranes differing in membrane thickness, porosity, and surface roughness. This work identifies bacterial cellulose as a novel convenient and flexible membrane material enabling long-term maintenance of mESCs’ stemness and significantly facilitating the handling and culturing of stem cells.