Magnetized cells to repair organs

For the first time, researchers have been able to fashion and stimulate tissue structures using simple magnets. This research, carried out on preliminarily magnetized embryonic stem cells, could contribute to improving the efficacy of organ grafts.

Producing assemblies of cells that form without the assistance of an external support is one of the major obstacles that regenerative medicine still has to overcome. Taking up this challenge would notably make it possible to develop large-sized cellular tissues or even orient the differentiation of stem cells towards a specific category of cells. Using an innovative technique designed by French researchers1CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, UPMC, INSERM, Université Paris Descartes, this type of achievement may soon be within reach. The scientists’ method consists firstly in transferring iron oxide nanoparticles into cells. Thus magnetized, these elementary bricks of life are placed between two magnets to control their organization. The team then tested this system on mouse embryonic stem cells. This enabled aggregation of the embryonic cells in the absence of an external matrix, like an embryoid body2Mass of differentiating stem cells. Moreover, their evolution towards precursors of heart cells could be facilitated by applying cyclic magnetic stimulation. By increasing both the level of differentiation and the functionality of cellular tissues, such an approach could lead to significant future improvement in the success rate of living tissue grafts.

Nature Communications, September 2017