Materials science & engineering. C, Materials for biological applications

Locust bean gum as an alternative polymeric coating for embryonic stem cell culture.

PMID 24857501


Pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have self-renewal capacity and the potential to differentiate into any cellular type depending on specific cues (pluripotency) and, therefore, have become a vibrant research area in the biomedical field. ESCs are usually cultured in gelatin or on top of a monolayer of feeder cells such as mitotically inactivated mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFsi). The latter is the gold standard support to maintain the ESCs in the pluripotent state. Examples of versatile, non-animal derived and inexpensive materials that are able to support pluripotent ESCs are limited. Therefore, our aim was to find a biomaterial able to support ESC growth in a pluripotent state avoiding laborious and time consuming parallel culture of MEFsi and as simple to handle as gelatin. Many of the new biomaterials used to develop stem cell microenvironments are using natural polymers adsorbed or covalently attached to the surface to improve the biocompatibility of synthetic polymers. Locust beam gum (LBG) is a natural, edible polymer, which has a wide range of potential applications in different fields, such as food and pharmaceutical industry, due to its biocompatibility, adhesiveness and thickening properties. The present work brings a natural system based on the use of LBG as a coating for ESC culture. Undifferentiated mouse ESCs were cultured on commercially available LBG to evaluate its potential in maintaining pluripotent ESCs. In terms of morphology, ESC colonies in LBG presented the regular dome shape with bright borders, similar to the colonies obtained in co-cultures with MEFsi and characteristic of pluripotent ESC colonies. In short-term cultures, ESC proliferation in LBG coating was similar to ESC cultured in gelatin and the cells maintained their viability. The activity of alkaline phosphatase and Nanog, Sox2 and Oct4 expression of mouse ESCs cultured in LBG were comparable or in some cases higher than in ESCs cultured in gelatin. An in vitro differentiation assay revealed that mouse ESCs cultured in LBG preserve their tri-lineage differentiation capacity. In conclusion, our data indicate that LBG coating promotes mouse ESC growth in an undifferentiated state demonstrating to be a viable, non-animal derived alternative to gelatin to support pluripotent mouse ESCs in culture.