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Even Stem Cells Need Help from Biomaterials

With the buzz about stem cells it's easy to forget that the technology is still in early stages and at best it is a promising technology. This is especially true for stem cell grafting of spinal cord injuries. For one thing, explains Scott Wittemore at the Society for Biomaterials annual meeting, in vitro results show that stem cells easily differentiate. However, in vivo stem cells do not. He says that there seems to be a mechanism in the spinal cord that inhibits the necessary differentiation.

To combat this difficultyâEUR"one among manyâEUR"Wittemore says bioengineers must turn to biomaterials in combination with stem cells to find successful implants. Fiber and channel-based guidance, as well as incorporating ligands, can help regulate cell interactions as well as control differentiation and function of transplanted cells. Wittemore works at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center and Departments of Neurological Surgery and Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.   

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