The physical parameters used in the study are reflective of the transient geometric constraints that cells can be exposed to in the body. For example, during development, the establishment of geometric patterns and niches are essential in the formation of functional tissues and organs. Similarly, when tissue is damaged, either through injury or disease, cells will experience sudden alterations to their environment. In each case, mature cells may revert back to a pluripotent, stem cell-like state, before being redeployed as specialised cells for the repair or maintenance of the tissue.
“While it is well established that confining stem cells to defined geometric patterns and substrate properties can direct their differentiation into specialised cells, this study shows for the first time that mechanical cues can reset the genomic programmes of mature cells and return them to a pluripotent state,” Prof Shivashankar explained.
He added, “The use of geometric constraints to reprogramme mature cells may better reflect the process occurring naturally within the body. More importantly, our findings allow researchers to generate stem cells from mature cells with high efficiency and without genetically modifying them.”