Nanotopographical surfaces for stem cell fate control: Engineering mechanobiology from the bottom

Weiqiang Chen, Yue Shao, Xiang Li, Gang Zhao, Jianping Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


During embryogenesis and tissue maintenance and repair in an adult organism, a myriad of stem cells are regulated by their surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM) enriched with tissue/organ-specific nanoscale topographical cues to adopt different fates and functions. Attributed to their capability of self-renewal and differentiation into most types of somatic cells, stem cells also hold tremendous promise for regenerative medicine and drug screening. However, a major challenge remains as to achieve fate control of stem cells in vitro with high specificity and yield. Recent exciting advances in nanotechnology and materials science have enabled versatile, robust, and large-scale stem cell engineering in vitro through developments of synthetic nanotopographical surfaces mimicking topological features of stem cell niches. In addition to generating new insights for stem cell biology and embryonic development, this effort opens up unlimited opportunities for innovations in stem cell-based applications. This review is therefore to provide a summary of recent progress along this research direction, with perspectives focusing on emerging methods for generating nanotopographical surfaces and their applications in stem cell research. Furthermore, we provide a review of classical as well as emerging cellular mechano-sensing and -transduction mechanisms underlying stem cell nanotopography sensitivity and also give some hypotheses in regard to how a multitude of signaling events in cellular mechanotransduction may converge and be integrated into core pathways controlling stem cell fate in response to extracellular nanotopography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-784
Number of pages26
JournalNano Today
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanobiology
  • Nanotopography
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Stem cell
  • Tissue engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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