Conjugated polymers optically regulate the fate of endothelial colony-forming cells

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Science Advances  27 Sep 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 9, eaav4620
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav4620


The control of stem and progenitor cell fate is emerging as a compelling urgency for regenerative medicine. Here, we propose a innovative strategy to gain optical control of endothelial colony-forming cell fate, which represents the only known truly endothelial precursor showing robust in vitro proliferation and overwhelming vessel formation in vivo. We combine conjugated polymers, used as photo-actuators, with the advantages offered by optical stimulation over current electromechanical and chemical stimulation approaches. Light modulation provides unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution, permitting at the same time lower invasiveness and higher selectivity. We demonstrate that polymer-mediated optical excitation induces a robust enhancement of proliferation and lumen formation in vitro. We identify the underlying biophysical pathway as due to light-induced activation of TRPV1 channel. Altogether, our results represent an effective way to induce angiogenesis in vitro, which represents the proof of principle to improve the outcome of autologous cell-based therapy in vivo.

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