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Spatially patterned matrix elasticity directs stem cell fate



Chun Yang, Frank W. DelRio, Lena Basta, Hao Ma, Kyle Kyburz, Anouk Killaars, Kristi Anseth


There is a growing appreciation for the functional role of matrix mechanics in regulating stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. However, it is largely unknown how sub-cellular, spatial mechanical variations in the local extracellular environment mediate intracellular signal transduction and cell fate decisions. Here, the effect of spatial organization and the magnitude of sub-cellular matrix mechanical properties on human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) was investigated using hydrogels fabricated with spatially distinct regions. Highly spread morphologies and higher Yes-associated protein (YAP) activation were observed in hMSCs seeded on hydrogels with higher concentrations of stiff regions. However, randomizing the spatial organization of the stiff regions resulted in rounded morphologies and lower levels of YAP activation. Additionally, disorganization of the matrix mechanics led to differences in cell fate. Collectively, this material platform has allowed innovative experiments to elucidate a novel spatial mechanical dosing mechanism that correlates to the magnitude and organization of spatial stiffness.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


stem cells, hydrogels, atomic force microscopy


Yang, C. , DelRio, F. , Basta, L. , Ma, H. , Kyburz, K. , Killaars, A. and Anseth, K. (2016), Spatially patterned matrix elasticity directs stem cell fate, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, [online],, (Accessed June 25, 2024)


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Created July 18, 2016, Updated October 12, 2021