Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can differentiate into all somatic cell types, but the development of effective strategies to direct ESC fate is dependent upon defining environmental parameters capable of influencing cell phenotype. ESCs are commonly differentiated via cell aggregates referred to as embryoid bodies (EBs), but current culture methods, such as hanging drop and static suspension, yield relatively few or heterogeneous populations of EBs. Alternatively, rotary orbital suspension culture enhances EB formation efficiency, cell yield, and homogeneity without adversely affecting differentiation. Thus, the objective of this study was to systematically examine the effects of hydrodynamic conditions created by rotary orbital shaking on EB formation, structure, and differentiation. Mouse ESCs introduced to suspension culture at a range of rotary orbital speeds (20-60 rpm) exhibited variable EB formation sizes and yields due to differences in the kinetics of cell aggregation. Computational fluid dynamic analyses indicated that rotary orbital shaking generated relatively uniform and mild shear stresses (< or =2.5 dyn/cm(2)) within the regions EBs occupied in culture dishes, at each of the orbital speeds examined. The hydrodynamic conditions modulated EB structure, indicated by differences in the cellular organization and morphology of the spheroids. Compared to static culture, exposure to hydrodynamic conditions significantly altered the gene expression profile of EBs. Moreover, varying rotary orbital speeds differentially modulated the kinetic profile of gene expression and relative percentages of differentiated cell types. Overall, this study demonstrates that manipulation of hydrodynamic environments modulates ESC differentiation, thus providing a novel, scalable approach to integrate into the development of directed stem cell differentiation strategies.
2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.