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Structure - Function Relationships in the Stem Cell's Mechanical World A: Seeding Protocols as a Means to Control Shape and Fate of Live Stem Cells

Joshua A. Zimmermann*, Melissa L. Knothe Tate∗,†,‡
* Department of Biomedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, 2071 Martin Luther King Drive, Cleveland, OH 44106-7207
Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, 2123 Martin Luther King Drive, Cleveland, OH 44106-7207
Corresponding author. Phone: (216)-368-5884; Fax: (216)-368-4969;

Molecular & Cellular Biomechanics 2011, 8(4), 275-296.


Shape and fate are intrinsic manifestations of form and function at the cell scale. Here we hypothesize that seeding density and protocol affect the form and function of live embryonic murine mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and their nuclei. First, the imperative for study of live cells was demonstrated in studies showing changes in cell nucleus shape that were attributable to fixation per se. Hence, we compared live cell and nuclear volume and shape between groups of a model MSC line (C3H10T1/2) seeded at, or proliferated from 5,000 cells/cm2 to one of three target densities to achieve targeted development contexts. Cell volume was shown to be dependent on initial seeding density whereas nucleus shape was shown to depend on developmental context but not seeding density. Both smaller cell volumes and flatter nuclei were found to correlate with increased expression of markers for mesenchymal condensation as well as chondrogenic and osteogenic differentiation but a decreased expression of pre-condensation and adipogenic markers. Considering the data presented here, both seeding density and protocol significantly alter the morphology of mesenchymal stem cells even at very early stages of cell culture. Thus, these design parameters may play a critical role in the success of tissue engineering strategies seeking to recreate condensation events. However, a better understanding of how these changes in cell volume and nucleus shape relate to the differentiation of MSCs is important for prescribing precise seeding conditions necessary for the development of the desired tissue type. In a companion study (Part B, following), we address the effect of concomitant volume and shape changing stresses on spatiotemporal distribution of the cytoskeletal proteins actin and tubulin. Taken together, these studies bring us one step closer to our ultimate goal of elucidating the dynamics of nucleus and cell shape change as tissue templates grow (cell proliferation) and specialize (cell differentiation).


developmental biology, mechanobiology, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, stem cell, density, proliferation, cell shape and volume, nucleus shape and volume, fate, differentiation, mechanical cues

Cite This Article

Zimmermann, J. A., L., M. (2011). Structure - Function Relationships in the Stem Cell's Mechanical World A: Seeding Protocols as a Means to Control Shape and Fate of Live Stem Cells. Molecular & Cellular Biomechanics, 8(4), 275–296.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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