Silly putty ingredient could advance stem cell therapies

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Researchers at the University of Michigan found an ingredient in Silly Putty that could advance stem cell therapies.

The sponginess area where human embryonic stem cells grow affects the type of specialized cells they eventually become, according to the researchers. For the study, the team designed microscopic posts made of polydimethylsiloxane, a key ingredient in Silly Putty. By varying the post heights, they could adjust the stiffness and softness of the posts.

The researchers found the stem cells grown on tall, softer posts turned into nerve cells much faster and more often than those grown on short, stiffer posts.

“To realize promising clinical applications of human embryonic stem cells, we need a better culture system that can reliably produce more target cells that function well,” Jianping Fu, UM assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was quoted as saying. “Our approach is a big step in that direction, by using synthetic microengineered surfaces to control mechanical environmental signals.”

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