Cluster of Excellence –
University of Freiburg

Controlling neuronal progenitor cell differentiation using physical cues

Prof. Venkantram Prasad Shastri (BIOSS and Insitute for Macromolecular Chemistry, University of Freiburg)

Neuropoiesis – the differentiation of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) into neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes; occurs during embryonic development and in adults in humans, and requires soluble signals and interaction with extracellular matrix proteins.  Neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis involve loss in a specific neural cell population.  Stem and progenitor cell implantation is a potential therapeutic option.  However, its success depends on be able to predictably control the differentiation of NPCs and maintain this microenvironment in vivo.   We have recently shown that nanotopography can impact cell shape, cytoskeletal organization and function much in the same way soluble signals do.  Using this a foundation, this project will investigate how topography impacts the spontaneous and soluble-signal induced differentiation of NPCs.  One of the impacts of the findings of this effort will be novel surface engineering strategies that can be implemented in neural prosthesis to mitigate the evolution of unfavorable cell around implants, thereby improving performance.