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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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The Generation of Three-dimensional Tissue Structures with Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Paul G. Genever

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent stem cells, found in the bone-marrow and other adult tissues, which give rise to various cell lineages. Although MSCs are biologically important, and may have widespread therapeutic potential, they are not well-characterised, particularly in terms of their cell surface receptors and in vivo phenotype. We aimed to develop a three-dimensional (3-D) MSC in vitro model, in order to understand the factors involved in the regulation of lineage specification routes. A suitable model, which replicates the MSC microenvironment as accurately as possible, will allow moredetailed investigations into the phenotype of the cells. Our MSC spheroids appear to have an enhanced mesenchymal differentiation compared to two-dimensional MSC monolayers. With this in vitro system, it is possible to perform real-time analysis of cellular differentiation status. MSC spheroids may also be amenable for use in high-throughput assays. A more-recent research project aims to generate knockout micro-tissues, based on human 3-D MSCs, as an alternative to animal studies.