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Injectable thermogel for 3D culture of stem cells

by Prof. Byeongmoon Jeong (bjeong@ewha.ac.kr)
Department of Chemistry and Nano Science

Thermogel is an aqueous polymer solution that undergoes sol-to-gel transition as the temperature increases. Cells, growth factors, and signaling molecules can be incorporated simultaneously during the sol-to-gel transition. The cytocompatible procedure makes the thermogel an excellent platform for 3D culture of stem cells. Stem cells are under extensive investigation as a next-generation therapeutic agent for clinical applications as well as basic research purposes. However, at the current time, there are many hurdles to be overcome in order for stem cell therapy to be a viable clinical method. First, the shortage of stem cells needed to achieve a therapeutic quantity should be solved. In this regard, limited resources of stem cells, painful procedures for stem cell harvest, and proliferation technologies for mass production of stem cells should be overcome. Second, bioavailability, that is, retention, proliferation, and differentiation of stem cells into target cells in in vivo applications, should be improved. This paper focuses on the second crucial question that needs to be addressed to achieve effective differentiation of stem cells into target cells, comprising low modulus, cell adhesion, and controlled supply of the growth factors (Figure 1). Recent progress in the use of thermogel as a 3D culture system of stem cells is summarized, and our perspectives on designing a new thermogel for 3D culture and its eventual application to injectable tissue engineering of stem cells are presented in this paper.

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Figure 1. Thermogel as an injectable 3D culture system for stem cells. Stem cells, growth factors, and signaling molecules are incorporated in hydrogel during the heat-induced sol-to-gel transition of the system, where the stem cell are to be differentiated into various cells such as osteocytes, chondrocytes, adipocytes, hepatocytes, neuronal cells, etc. depending on the factors and matrix characteristics.

Prof. Byeongmoon Jeong published about 120 papers and patents, particulary focusing on thermogels, which have been cited more than 9,000 times. Recently, along with Dr. Madhumita Patel, Hyun Jung Lee, Sohee Park, and Yelin Kim at Ewha Womans University, he published a paper focusing on the thermogel for stem cells. The paper can be an important guide when designing new thermogels as a 3D stem cell culture system and their eventual application for injectable tissue engineering and stem cell therapy.

* Related article
Madhumita Patel, Hyun Jung Lee, Sohee Park, Yelin Kim, and Byeongmoon Jeong*, Injectable Thermogel for 3D Culture of Stem Cells, Biomaterials, 2018, 159, 91-107.