Engineered Tissue Models to Replicate Dynamic Interactions within the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Niche

Aidan E. Gilchrist, Brendan A.C. Harley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Hematopoietic stem cells are the progenitors of the blood and immune system and represent the most widely used regenerative therapy. However, their rarity and limited donor base necessitate the design of ex vivo systems that support HSC expansion without the loss of long-term stem cell activity. This review describes recent advances in biomaterials systems to replicate features of the hematopoietic niche. Inspired by the native bone marrow, these instructive biomaterials provide stimuli and cues from cocultured niche-associated cells to support HSC encapsulation and expansion. Engineered systems increasingly enable study of the dynamic nature of the matrix and biomolecular environment as well as the role of cell–cell signaling (e.g., autocrine feedback vs paracrine signaling between dissimilar cells). The inherent coupling of material properties, biotransport of cell-secreted factors, and cell-mediated remodeling motivate dynamic biomaterial systems as well as characterization and modeling tools capable of evaluating a temporally evolving tissue microenvironment. Recent advances in HSC identification and tracking, model-based experimental design, and single-cell culture platforms facilitate the study of the effect of constellations of matrix, cell, and soluble factor signals on HSC fate. While inspired by the HSC niche, these tools are amenable to the broader stem cell engineering community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2102130
JournalAdvanced Healthcare Materials
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 6 2022


  • artificial niche
  • hematopoietic stem cells
  • hydrogels
  • remodeling
  • signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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