Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are isolated from bone marrow and fat cells. While they are not stem cells, they exhibit a similar ability to differentiate into many types of cells. That ability forms the basis for developing treatments for a variety of diseases. MSCs also generate extracellular vesicles (EVs). The EVs transport bioactive molecules that prompt cellular-level responses. It is difficult to manufacture EVs reproducibly. This limits its current therapeutic potential. Changes in local conditions impact MSC-EV production and function. Understanding those impacts is the focus of this project. The project will also promote STEM participation of students from underrepresented groups. Many challenges contribute to the lack of successful MSC-EV clinical translation. MSC heterogeneity is a key issue. There are no effective critical quality attributes (CQAs) that predict how a given batch of EVs will perform. There are also no standardized manufacturing approaches for EVs. In addition, there is a knowledge gap regarding the effects of scaling EV manufacturing with respect to 2D vs. 3D environments. The overall goals of this project are to understand how 3D structure affects EV production and to identify metabolic pathways controlling this response. To accomplish these goals, the project team will: 1) investigate the effects of 3D hydrogel microenvironments on EV function, 2) determine the effects of manufacturing strategies on EVs, and 3) define metabolic changes associated with EV production. It is anticipated that the mechanisms identified will have relevance for MSC-EVs for different therapeutic applications and for EVs generated by other cell types.
Funder: National Science Foundation
PI: Ross Marklein, College of Engineering