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FSU researchers use 3D culture technology to develop improved treatments for neurological disorders

Yan Li, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering, removes a stem cell culture from an incubator in his lab. (Mark Wallheisier/FAMU-FSU Faculty of Engineering)

Researchers at Florida State University have developed a promising strategy for producing therapeutic particles in stem cells that could help patients with neurological disorders such as stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Developed by researchers at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and the FSU College of Medicine, the technology combines a 3D growth platform with waves. This research was published in the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles.

Particles released by cells (known as extracellular vesicles) are chemical messengers that influence cell behavior. They can be used to carry drugs that target organs within the body. Improving the production and efficacy of these particles is a major research area.

FSU researchers combined two techniques to produce these particles. The first was to grow stem cells in 3D culture instead of 2D culture. The second was to suspend the growing cells on a platform and rock them back and forth in gentle motions to generate tiny waves that help deliver oxygen, glucose and other nutrients to the cells. Combined, the stem cells were able to generate twice as many particles as those grown on the 2D platform.

“Just as a flowing river moves more material than a static lake, using dynamic waves to grow these stem cells allows more nutrients to reach the cells than if they were just suspended in a medium. supplied,” said the senior author. Yan Li, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, FAMU-FSU.

Extracellular vesicles from stem cells grown in 3D also showed more therapeutic properties than the 2D version. They were high in microribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules that help protect the brain from neurological disease and spinal cord injury, and were also high in anti-inflammatory proteins.

This research may also help treat patients with neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. These diseases disrupt cell-cell interactions that are necessary for brain repair. Extracellular vesicles harvested from engineered stem cells that mimic human nerve cells could provide molecules that instruct the patient’s damaged cells to initiate repair.

“The vesicles contain many microRNAs and proteins that alter the cell’s behavior,” said Li. “They don’t speak or write words, but they send signals. The engineering approach is to get the cells to deliver the signals they need.”

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Florida Department of Health’s Ed and Ethel Moore Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program, the National Institutes of Health and Synergy Biologics, LLC.