Neural differentiation of pluripotent cells in 3D alginate-based cultures

Angela Bozza, Emily E. Coates, Tania Incitti, Kimberly M. Ferlin, Andrea Messina, Elisabetta Menna, Yuri Bozzi, John P. Fisher, Simona Casarosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Biomaterial-supported culture methods, allowing for directed three-dimensional differentiation of stem cells are an alternative to canonical two-dimensional cell cultures. In this paper, we evaluate the suitability of alginate for three-dimensional cultures to enhance differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) towards neural lineages. We tested whether encapsulation of mESCs within alginate beads could support and/or enhance neural differentiation with respect to two-dimensional cultures. We encapsulated cells in beads of alginate with or without modification by fibronectin (Fn) or hyaluronic acid (HA). Gene expression analysis showed that cells grown in alginate and alginate-HA present increased differentiation toward neural lineages with respect to the two-dimensional control and to Fn group. Immunocytochemistry analyses confirmed these results, further showing terminal differentiation of neurons as seen by the expression of synaptic markers and markers of different neuronal subtypes. Our data show that alginate, alone or modified, is a suitable biomaterial to promote invitro differentiation of pluripotent cells toward neural fates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4636-4645
Number of pages10
Issue number16
StatePublished - May 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
YB, JPF, SC financial support.


  • Alginate
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Neural differentiation
  • Pluripotent cells
  • Three dimensional cultures


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