Hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) reside in unique bone marrow niches and are influenced by signals from surrounding cells, the extracellular matrix (ECM), ECM-bound or diffusible biomolecules. Here we describe the use of a three-dimensional hydrogel to alter the balance of HSC-generated autocrine feedback and paracrine signals generated by co-cultured niche-associated cells. We report shifts in HSC proliferation rate and fate specification in the presence of lineage positive (Lin+) niche cells. Hydrogels promoting autocrine feedback enhanced expansion of early hematopoietic progenitors while paracrine signals from Lin+ cells increased myeloid differentiation. We report thresholds where autocrine vs. paracrine cues alter HSC fate transitions, and were able to selectively abrogate the effects of matrix diffusivity and niche cell co-culture via the use of inhibitory cocktails of autocrine or paracrine signals. Together, these results suggest diffusive biotransport in three-dimensional biomaterials are a critical design element for the development of a synthetic stem cell niche.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-64
Number of pages11
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Autocrine
  • Hematopoietic
  • Hydrogel diffusivity
  • Paracrine
  • Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials


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