Modulation of human multipotent and pluripotent stem cells using surface nanotopographies and surface-immobilised bioactive signals: A review

Peng-Yuan Wang, Helmut Thissen, Peter Kingshott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to control the interactions of stem cells with synthetic surfaces is proving to be effective and essential for the quality of passaged stem cells and ultimately the success of regenerative medicine. The stem cell niche is crucial for stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. Thus, mimicking the stem cell niche, and here in particular the extracellular matrix (ECM), in vitro is an important goal for the expansion of stem cells and their applications. Here, surface nanotopographies and surface-immobilised biosignals have been identified as major factors that control stem cell responses. The development of tailored surfaces having an optimum nanotopography and displaying suitable biosignals is proposed to be essential for future stem cell culture, cell therapy and regenerative medicine applications. While early research in the field has been restricted by the limited availability of micro- and nanofabrication techniques, new approaches involving the use of advanced fabrication and surface immobilisation methods are starting to emerge. In addition, new cell types such as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have become available in the last decade, but have not been fully understood. This review summarises significant advances in the area and focuses on the approaches that are aimed at controlling the behavior of human stem cells including maintenance of their self-renewal ability and improvement of their lineage commitment using nanotopographies and biosignals. More specifically, we discuss developments in biointerface science that are an important driving force for new biomedical materials and advances in bioengineering aiming at improving stem cell culture protocols and 3D scaffolds for clinical applications. Cellular responses revolve around the interplay between the surface properties of the cell culture substrate and the biomolecular composition of the cell culture medium. Determination of the precise role played by each factor, as well as the synergistic effects amongst the factors, all of which influence stem cell responses is essential for future developments. This review provides an overview of the current state-of-the-art in the design of complex material surfaces aimed at being the next generation of tools tailored for applications in cell culture and regenerative medicine. Statement of Significance This review focuses on the effect of surface nanotopographies and surface-bound biosignals on human stem cells. Recently, stem cell research attracts much attention especially the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and direct lineage reprogramming. The fast advance of stem cell research benefits disease treatment and cell therapy. On the other hand, surface property of cell adhered materials has been demonstrated very important for in vitro cell culture and regenerative medicine. Modulation of cell behavior using surfaces is costeffective and more defined. Thus, we summarise the recent progress of modulation of human stem cells using surface science. We believe that this review will capture a broad audience interested in topographical and chemical patterning aimed at understanding complex cellular responses to biomaterials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-59
Number of pages29
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomaterials
  • Biosignals
  • Cell therapy
  • Nanotopography
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Stem cells
  • Surface modification
  • Tissue engineering

Cite this