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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2003, Issue 3, Pages 164-169
Review article

Can We Build Artificial Stem Cell Compartments?

Center for Biological Engineering and Biotechnology Process Engineering Center, Building 56-354, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, MA, USA

Received 18 April 2002; Revised 15 May 2002; Accepted 21 May 2002

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Animals carry stem cells throughout their entire life, from embryogenesis to senescence. Their function during development and adulthood consists basically of forming and sustaining functional tissues while maintaining a small self-renewing population. They reside in a complex three-dimensional environment consisting of other nearby cells extracellular matrix components, endogenous or exogenous soluble factors, and physical, structural, or mechanical properties of the tissues they inhabit. Can we artificially recreate tissue development such that stem cells can both self-renew and be instructed to mature properly? The main factors required to regulate the maintenance and differentiation of some types of stem cells are known. In addition, new bioengineered synthetic materials that mimic extracellular matrix components can be used as initial scaffolding for building stem cell microenvironments.