Controlling Stem Cell Differentiation by Light-Responsive Hydrogel

Invention Summary:

The ability of stem cells to differentiate into specialized lineages is vital for regenerative medicine. It is known that the stem cell microenvironment plays a major role in controlling various stem cell behaviors.

Rutgers scientists have developed a novel light-responsive hydrogel-based platform that employs three-dimensional micro-scale patterns to modulate microenvironment signals for the control of human stem cell differentiation. This system combines fundamental principles from chemistry, materials science and engineering to afford control over physical (i.e. pattern geometry/dimension), mechanical (i.e. elasticity, stiffness), biochemical (i.e. ligand presentation, small molecule release) and genetic (e.g. inhibit Notch signaling) properties, all of which are known to direct neuronal differentiation. Specifically, the new hydrogel design has multiple tunable properties upon irradiation with ultraviolet (UV) light and near-infrared (NIR) light. The different wavelengths of light are employed in this hydrogel system to generate three-dimensional micron-scale patterns of varying geometries and dimensions to alter the polymer structure integrity, to tune the mechanical properties and to release small molecules that can alter key signaling pathways. This technology is an attractive candidate for the future development of tissue engineering scaffolds for stem cell-based medicine.

Market Applications:

  • Research tool for culturing stem cells and studying stem cell behaviors
  • Tissue engineering scaffolds for stem cell-based medicine


The hydrogel system

  • Holds high water content that resembles the native extracellular matrix of the cell microenvironment
  • Provides a handle on spatially and temporally controlling the hydrogel properties through external stimuli to dictate stem cell behavior

Intellectual Property & Development Status:

Patent pending. (Application #13/314,891)

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Lisa Lyu
Assistant Director
Rutgers University