Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) play a crucial role in the generation of the body's blood and immune cells. This process takes place primarily in the bone marrow in specialized 'niche' microenvironments, which provide signals responsible for maintaining a balance between HSC quiescence, self-renewal, and lineage specification required for life-long hematopoiesis. While our understanding of these signaling mechanisms continues to improve, our ability to engineer them in vitro for the expansion of clinically relevant HSC populations is still lacking. In this review, we focus on development of biomaterials-based culture platforms for in vitro study of interactions between HSCs and their local microenvironment. The tools and techniques used for both examining HSC-niche interactions as well as applying these findings towards controlled HSC expansion or directed differentiation in 2D and 3D platforms are discussed. These novel techniques hold the potential to push the existing boundaries of HSC cultures towards high-throughput, real-time, and single-cell level biomimetic approaches that enable a more nuanced understanding of HSC regulation and function. Their application in conjunction with innovative biomaterial platforms can pave the way for engineering artificial bone marrow niches for clinical applications as well as elucidating the pathology of blood-related cancers and disorders. The authors review the recent development of biomaterials-based culture platforms for in vitro study of interactions between hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and their local microenvironment. Specifically, they describe the tools and techniques used to examine HSC-niche interactions, as well as how these may be applied for controlled expansion or directed differentiation of HSCs in vitro. The novel techniques reviewed here hold the potential to push the existing boundaries of HSC cultures towards high-throughput, real-time single-cell level biomimetic approaches that enable more nuanced understanding of HSC regulation and function.
- Hematopoietic stem cells
- Hydrogel and scaffold fabrication
- Stem cell fate
- Stem cell niche engineering
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Molecular Medicine