Researchers used a microfluidic device in the lab to simulate an embryonic heart, which resulted in the development of human blood stem cell “precursors,” which are stem cells on the verge of becoming blood stem cells.
To create blood stem cells in laboratory dishes, researchers must first understand all of the processes that occur in the microenvironment during embryonic development that lead to the formation of blood stem cells around day 32.
The device simulates heartbeat and blood circulation, as well as an orbital shaking system that causes shear stress – or friction – of blood cells as they move through the device or around in a dish.
These systems aid in the development of precursor blood stem cells capable of differentiating into various blood components such as white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and others. The same process, known as hematopoiesis, was replicated in the device by the researchers.
The device not only generated blood stem cell precursors that later differentiated into differentiated blood cells but also generated the embryonic heart environment, which is critical to the process.
The study could be a step toward resolving issues that are currently limiting regenerative medical treatments, such as donor blood stem cell shortages, donor tissue cell rejection, and ethical concerns surrounding the use of IVF embryos.