BNR 45 : Pr. Matthias LUTOLF (EPFL) - Friday March 15th, PM 5:00 

Title : Hydrogel microfluidics for stem cell fate control

by Pr. Matthias LUTOLF, EPFL Lausanne (Switzweland)

Friday March 15th, PM 5:00 

C-lounge, Building C, 2nd Floor

IIS- Univ Tokyo, Komaba 4-6-1 Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8505




Biomolecular signaling is of upmost importance in governing the patterning of the developing embryo

where biomolecules termed ‘morphogens’ regulate key cell fate decisions such as lineage specification. In vivo,

these factors are presented in a spatiotemporally tightly controlled fashion and in the context of a soft and

hydrated microenvironment. Traditional in vitro methods fall short of recapitulating this complex physiological

biomolecule display. Emerging microfluidic technologies based on poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) now allow

the delivery of biomolecules within microchannels with very high spatiotemporal precision. However, state-ofthe-

art PDMS microchips are far from ideal for long-term stem cell culture due to issues such as medium evaporation,

limited space for cell growth, shear stress and a non-physiological microenvironment that might

adversely impact stem cell fate. As a result, microfluidic cell culture systems are often not suitable to unravel

more complex (multi-)cellular processes.

To address these limitations, we have been developing hydrogel-based microfluidic platforms that can decouple

macro-scale cell culture from the precise spatiotemporal biomolecule delivery at micro-scale. Gel-embedded

microfluidic networks can be perfused by hydrostatic pressure or syringe pumps, generating transient and

stable gradients with high precision. Our hydrogel chips are engineered to afford embryonic stem cell (ESC)

culture in both adherent format and as uniformly sized embryoid bodies (EBs). To illustrate the applicability of

the platforms for stem cell biology, we used two reporter ESC lines to assess how gradients of morphogens influence

ESC self-renewal and neuroepithelial differentiation. Our approach should be broadly applicable for testing

the effect of the dose and timing of biomolecules, singly or in combination, on stem cell fate.



eujo limms