A group of scientists at the University of Michigan have found a way to control the growth of a stem cell using subtle shifts of the growing surface.

Scientists at the University of Michigan, led by biomedical and mechanical engineer Jianping Fu, have discovered that the end-product of a stem cell can be determined by controlling the surface where it grows, along with the force that it exerts on that surface.

Popular Science reports:

Fu placed a stem cell on a scaffold of 13-micron-long silicone posts and found that the amount of force the cell exerted on those posts indicated it would eventually become a fat cell. But he also found that when he stiffened the surface by shortening the posts, it caused the same line of stem cells to turn into bone. Knowing how to predict and manipulate the fate of stem cells will make therapies based on them—for spinal-injury repair, bone grafts, skin transplants—easier to develop.

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