Stem cells are quite potent in that they can initiate cell division when needed. However, when doing so in a laboratory environment, scientists would have to use mouse embryonic fibroblasts and line it in a culture dish. This would be used as a feeder layer to initiate the process of cell division. However, using mouse feeder layers could potentially bring with it some risks, which is why researchers are looking for ways to initiate the sequence without the use of MEFs.
Scientists are still baffled as to why feeder layers are good initiators of cell proliferation. There are two theories as to why this is the case. First, it provides a support mechanism via the extracellular matrix and second, it contains a lot of growth factors and other molecules that may help induce cell division.
One popular alternative to induce cell division would be the use of Matrigel- which is a protein that is derived from cancerous mouse cells. Although its potency is there, there is a growing concern that these cells might carry with it some dangerous pathogens.
Lucie Germain, Canada Research Chair in Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, said that they make cell cultures to create crafts that are placed on top of the skin of burn patients.
Germain said that without feeders, the grafts will most likely fail just a couple of months after the procedure. To ease the minds of burn patients receiving the graft, Germain and her team made use of human fibroblasts that are gathered by removing the foreskin of a newborn during circumcision.
In the past, Germain and her colleagues would use the process of irradiation so that the fibroblasts will stop dividing. Without irradiating the fibroblasts, it would outgrow the stem cells (the things that you actually want) and would, therefore, overrun the cell culture. The human feeders, however, may persist and live on for a couple of weeks even after irradiation.
Binata Joddar, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso also came up with another method. This time, she ditched the use of live feeder cells.
What she did was to use human dermal fibroblasts and putting them in a solution of 2.5% formaldehyde. After that is done, she would wash it well and then, she would later add some human induced pluripotent stem cells into the mix.
By doing this procedure, the resulting cells will be bound to the petri dish. The good thing is that they are bound pretty well and the only way for you to be able to remove them would be to use a rubber scraper.
She added that if you are going to use this procedure, make sure that you scrape the cells as gently as you can so that their cell membranes would remain as fluid as possible.
Joddar is still in the process of removing the use of feeder cells to initiate cell division by leaving only the extracellular matrix behind.