Polymeric sheet actuators with programmable bioinstructivity


Stem cells are capable of sensing and processing environmental inputs, converting this information to output a specific cell lineage through signaling cascades. Despite the combinatorial nature of mechanical, thermal, and biochemical signals, these stimuli have typically been decoupled and applied independently, requiring continuous regulation by controlling units. We employ a programmable polymer actuator sheet to autonomously synchronize thermal and mechanical signals applied to mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Using a grid on its underside, the shape change of polymer sheet, as well as cell morphology, calcium (Ca2+) influx, and focal adhesion assembly, could be visualized and quantified. This paper gives compelling evidence that the temperature sensing and mechanosensing of MSCs are interconnected via intracellular Ca2+. Up-regulated Ca2+ levels lead to a remarkable alteration of histone H3K9 acetylation and activation of osteogenic related genes. The interplay of physical, thermal, and biochemical signaling was utilized to accelerate the cell differentiation toward osteogenic lineage. The approach of programmable bioinstructivity provides a fundamental principle for functional biomaterials exhibiting multifaceted stimuli on differentiation programs. Technological impact is expected in the tissue engineering of periosteum for treating bone defects.
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