Professor Ken Yung (right) and Dr Jeffery Huang (left) jointly developed the device for safe growth of neural stem cells using nanotechnology. (Credit: HKBU)

A research team has developed a medical device with a specific nanotechnology layer for the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells (NSCs) in vitro. Compared with traditional methods, the team's novel matrix can reduce the risk of carcinogenesis or inflammation in stem cell therapy — a treatment that offers hope of a cure for incurable diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases, chronic systemic diseases, and degenerative joint diseases.

Traditional methods for proliferation and differentiation of NSCs require a large number of additional growth factors in a culture medium, which are kinds of polypeptides and can regulate many aspects of cellular function that may stimulate the growth of cancer cells and increase the risk of developing tumors in vivo after transplantation. The layer of nanostructure of the new device is made of biocompatible materials and avoids the use of additional growth factor or other biochemical for cultivating cells. After growth and cell differentiation, it is hoped that the mature cell can turn into a therapeutic agent for stem cell therapy.

The NSCs are under “physical massage” when they come into physiological contact with the matrix. Owing to the appropriate design and choice of materials and structure of the matrix, the physical massage resembles the Chinese medicine acupuncture technique, which causes the cells to differentiate into functional cells that are in urgent demand in cell replacement therapy. The novel matrix enables scientists to cultivate NSCs by adopting the usual method; however, it has the added advantage of organic compounds (like Polylysine and Polyornithine) being excluded from the process, thereby reducing the potential risk of carcinogenesis or inflammation in stem cell therapy. It could provide a safe platform for research into stem cell therapies using the latest, novel nanotechnology, and also help boost the development of regenerative medicine.”