Biomimetic PEG Hydrogels for ex vivo Hematopoietic Stem Cell Expansion
Rowland, Maude Lucille
West, Jennifer L.
Doctor of Philosophy
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are commonly used in the treatment of blood cancers, like leukemia, and other cancers where radiation or chemotherapy damages the native HSC population. The development of a novel system to study and maintain HSCs ex vivo would give researchers and clinicians the ability to investigate the basic biological processes of HSCs, improve current treatment regimens, and explore their use in new therapies. The work in this thesis focuses on the development of a synthetic PEG hydrogel scaffold that accurately mimics aspects of the HSC microenvironment and can expand clinically relevant HSC populations. PEG hydrogel well surfaces were covalently functionalized with bioactive factors known to be critical in controlling HSC fate in vivo. In initial studies, 32D cells, a myeloid progenitor, were cultured in the wells for 6 days. On surfaces with the adhesive RGDS peptide sequence, 32D cell adhesion increased concurrently with RGDS surface concentrations. With the immobilization of two niche cytokines, SCF and SDF1α, onto hydrogel surfaces, 32D cells demonstrated significant increases in adhesion and spreading. These results confirmed that hematopoietic cell behavior could be controlled through the design of the bioactive PEG scaffold. In studies with a primary hematopoietic cell population (c-kit + , lin - ), the effects of bioactive molecules on cell expansion and differentiation were investigated after 2 weeks in culture. The adhesive peptides sequences, RGDS and CS1, and four niche proteins, SCF, SDF1α, JAG1, and IFNγ, were covalently tethered to hydrogel well surfaces. Primary cells proliferated significantly on gels containing SCF and IFNγ though only SCF was capable of preventing HSC differentiation. Cells cultured on surfaces functionalized with JAG1 and SDF1α did not proliferate extensively, but they were able to maintain primitive HSC populations. Primary c-kit + cells were also encapsulated within biodegradable PEG hydrogels and cultured for 2-5 weeks. Cells remained viable for 5 weeks in culture, and preliminary results indicated minimal cell differentiation. In this work, biomimetic PEG hydrogels were successfully employed to expand HSC populations in both two and three dimensions. The ability to generate large populations of primitive HSCs ex vivo has broad clinical and research implications.