Groovy surface changes cells’ state

Scientists use physical environment to reprogram cells

Embryonic stem cell-like colonies (stem-cell marker, green) grow on microgrooved surfaces.

Song Li Lab

Physical cues may be as important as chemical ones when trying to revert mature cells to ones more like stem cells.

In a new study, published October 20 in Nature Materials, Song Li of the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues grew human skin and mouse ear cells on biological materials with extremely small grooves. Under these conditions the mature cells changed back to an undifferentiated state. Previously scientists used only chemical cues to transform cells in this way.

The new method may offer scientists a more efficient, less hazardous way to reprogram cells, the authors suggest.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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