The secret(ome) to tissue repair

Using a chicken egg membrane model, (from left) Assoc Prof Andrew Tan, Asst Prof Dalton Tay and Assoc Prof Newman Sze demonstrated improved blood vessel formation due to healing factors produced by hydrogel-grown stem cells. Credit: NTU.

Multipotent cells in the body, called mesenchymal stem cells, secrete a cocktail of immunomodulatory and regenerative factors collectively termed the secretome. To trigger the production of the pro-healing secretome, researchers typically culture mesenchymal stem cells under oxygen deprivation, or turn to biochemicals or genetic engineering.

An interdisciplinary team of NTU researchers, led by Asst Prof Dalton Tay of the School of Materials Science and Engineering, Assoc Prof Andrew Tan of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, and Assoc Prof Newman Sze of the School of Biological Sciences, has found a more efficient way to grow stem cells and enhance secretome production.

Mimicking the body’s natural microenvironment, the team grew the cells on a hydrogel—3D networks of polymers with high water content. They harvested the secretome and showed improved blood vessel formation in a chicken egg chorioallantoic membrane model, as well as faster cutaneous wound repair in a mouse model, as compared to the secretome from cells grown under classical conditions.

“Going forward, we aim to further develop advanced cell culture materials to manipulate the production and therapeutic potential of the secretome, so that the same types of healing factors present in different body tissues during tissue repair can be produced in the lab,” says Asst Prof Tay.

More details of this research can be found in “Materials stiffness-dependent redox metabolic reprogramming of mesenchymal stem cells for secretome-based therapeutic angiogenesis”, published in Advanced Healthcare Materials (2019), DOI: 10.1002/adhm.201900929; and in “Soft material approach to induce oxidative stress in mesenchymal stem cells for functional tissue repair”, published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2016), DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b09222.

The article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #17, August 2020).

You may also like...