Engineering of in vitro three-dimensional cultures of stem cells and their
progenies has offered promising alternatives to recapitulate the in vivo microenvironment,
or stem cell niche, and has provided more specific cues for proper stem cell differentiation,
maintenance and culture. In particular, tissue spheroids are cellular aggregates
with defined cellular and extracellular features and have provided optimal conditions for
stem cell technology, both in culture and for potential engraftment. Recent studies have
focused on spheroid formation and the developmental roles played by cellular and extracellular
signals necessary for cellular aggegation into spheroids. This review will provide
insights into the factors that regulate in vitro spheroid formation by comparing them
with their developmental counterparts in vivo. At the same time, we will identify cellular
and extracellular signals that could be used to bioengineer spheroids with improved features according to
their application. Finally, this review will provide an overview of the applications to date of spheroid cultures
of stem cells and their progenies, providing insights for future studies.
Keywords: Cardiospheres, differentiation, embryoid bodies, mesenspheres, microenvironment, spheroid formation.
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