Restraint of the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells by a nonfouling zwitterionic hydrogel

Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2014 Nov 17;53(47):12729-34. doi: 10.1002/anie.201405930. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


The success of human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) therapies is largely dependent on the ability to maintain the multipotency of cells and control their differentiation. External biochemical and biophysical cues can readily trigger hMSCs to spontaneously differentiate, thus resulting in a rapid decrease in the multipotent cell population and compromising their regenerative capacity. Herein, we demonstrate that nonfouling hydrogels composed of pure poly(carboxybetaine) (PCB) enable hMSCs to retain their stem-cell phenotype and multipotency, independent of differentiation-promoting media, cytoskeletal-manipulation agents, and the stiffness of the hydrogel matrix. Moreover, encapsulated hMSCs can be specifically induced to differentiate down osteogenic or adipogenic pathways by controlling the content of fouling moieties in the PCB hydrogel. This study examines the critical role of nonspecific interactions in stem-cell differentiation and highlights the importance of materials chemistry in maintaining stem-cell multipotency and controlling differentiation.

Keywords: gels; nonspecific interactions; stem-cell differentiation; zwitterionic hydrogels; zwitterions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Betaine / analogs & derivatives
  • Betaine / chemistry
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate / chemistry
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate / pharmacology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects*


  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate
  • Betaine