Yue Shao, Graduate Student Mechanical Engineering (Fu and Gumucio Laboratories), University of Michigan College of Engineering
Embryonic stem cells hold great promise for regenerative medicine because they have the potential to become any cell type in the body. Thus, they could be used to engineer tissues and organs to replace diseased or damaged ones, alleviating a need for organ and tissue transplants. Studying these cells in culture also can reveal novel aspects of cell behavior and function. Interestingly, when cultured under certain conditions, human embryonic stem cells have a tendency to form cysts (soccer-ball like structures with an internal lumen) or tubes. By modifying the bed upon which the cells grow, it is even possible to engineer branched tubes, such as the ones seen here. Such tubes are wonderful models with which to study the development of organs with tubular structure such as the GI tract, kidney and lung.