Substrate topography and size determine the fate of human embryonic stem cells to neuronal or glial lineage

Acta Biomater. 2013 Jan;9(1):4535-45. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2012.08.018. Epub 2012 Aug 18.


Efficient derivation of neural cells from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) remains an unmet need for the treatment of neurological disorders. The limiting factors for current methods include being labor-intensive, time-consuming and expensive. In this study, we hypothesize that the substrate topography, with optimal geometry and dimension, can modulate the neural fate of hESCs and enhance the efficiency of differentiation. A multi-architectural chip (MARC) containing fields of topographies varying in geometry and dimension was developed to facilitate high-throughput analysis of topography-induced neural differentiation in vitro. The hESCs were subjected to "direct differentiation", in which small clumps of undifferentiated hESCs were cultured directly without going through the stage of embryoid body formation, on the MARC with N2 and B27 supplements for 7 days. The gene and protein expression analysis indicated that the anisotropic patterns like gratings promoted neuronal differentiation of hESCs while the isotropic patterns like pillars and wells promoted the glial differentiation of hESCs. This study showed that optimal combination of topography and biochemical cues could shorten the differentiation period and allowed derivation of neurons bearing longer neurites that were aligned along the grating axis. The MARC platform would enable high-throughput screening of topographical substrates that could maximize the efficiency of neuronal differentiation from pluripotent stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Cell Size*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Karyotyping
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Neuroglia / cytology*
  • Neurons / cytology*


  • Biomarkers