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Optogenetic Differentiation of Cardiovascular Cells from Pluripotent Stem Cells
Stem cell technologies hold great promise in solving problems within fields such as drug development, regenerative medicine, and disease modeling. Stem cell engineering provides a mechanism that will help stem cells achieve this promise. Currently, many applications within tissue engineering are limited by a lack of ability to create accurate micro-physiological structures that recapitulate multicellular tissue patterns in vivo. Precise control of spatial and temporal signaling is desired to perform concurrent differentiation to multiple cell types intentionally. The OptoWnt construct, a novel optogenetic system activating the Wnt signaling pathway, achieves precise spatiotemporal regulation, in pursuit of greater control in stem cell differentiation. We utilize OptoWnt, to differentiate stem cells into cardiovascular cells: endothelial progenitor cells and cardiomyocytes, valuable cell types for designing microtissues. Endothelial cells comprise the luminal lining of blood and lymphatic vessels, providing the integral structure for distribution within the body, separating mobile and stationary tissues. Cardiomyocytes provide the force required to pump blood throughout the human body and are a highly desired cell type in regenerative medicine.
In this project, we have applied an optogenetic induced signaling pathway, OptoWnt, to differentiate human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into cardiovascular cells via light-induced activation of Wnt signaling pathway. In the analysis of these cells and comparison to previous small molecule approaches to cardiovascular cell differentiation, we demonstrate the robustness of the optogenetic approach and similar efficiency that it has with the small molecule approach. In short, we have further demonstrated the utility and potential of optogenetic induction of developmental pathways, via the OptoWnt construct.