Directing Cell Fate

cBITE Department

Directing Cell Fate

Regenerative medicine strategies range from cell therapies to artificial devices, but hybrids between cells and materials often emerge as the best option for many tissues and organs. In the LaPointe lab, we operate at the intersection of biology, medicine and engineering to tackle what we consider the greatest challenge in the field: directing cell fate. Indeed, no matter which tissue or organ one wants to heal, we ultimately need to influence cells. We are especially interested in how to do this in three-dimensional aggregates of cells, mini-tissues or organoids. Our main research themes are:

  • Stem cell differentiation. Small soluble molecules, biomaterials, and other approaches are used to direct multipotent and pluripotent stem cells into functioning adult cells.
  • Self-organization. Borrowing principles from developmental biology, we study how cell-cell contact and self-organization can be manipulated to build functional mini-tissues and organoids.
  • Single cell information. Three-dimensional aggregates of cells may best mimic the tissues of the body, but getting information from them is very challenging due to their heterogeneity. We use single cell techniques to understand this complexity and use it for directing cell fate.
  • Vascularization. Creating an in vitro vasculature has stumped scientists for years. We are developing alternatives to protect cells from the dearth of nutrients and the stress they incur upon transplantation until the more reliable in vivo vascularization occurs.
  • Methodology. We use advanced light and electron microscopy to gain high quality single cell information, and we develop methods to work in 3D cell cultures, which are better mimics of the in vivo situation.

Selected publications

  • Sthijns MMPE, van Blitterswijk CA, LaPointe VLS. Redox regulation in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering: the paradox of oxygen. Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine 2018; 12(10): 2013–2020,
  • Mager M, LaPointe V, Stevens MM. Exploring and exploiting chemistry at the cell surface. Nature Chemistry 2011; 3(8):582–589,
  • Evans ND, Minelli C, Gentleman E, LaPointe VL, Patankar S, Kallivretaki M, Chen X, Roberts CJ, Stevens MM. Substrate stiffness affects early differentiation events in embryonic stem cells. European Cells and Materials Journal 2009; 18:1–14,