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Keywords:

  • microcarriers;
  • mesenchymal stem cells;
  • pluripotent stem cells;
  • proliferation;
  • differentiation

Microcarriers have been widely used for various biotechnology applications because of their high scale-up potential, high reproducibility in regulating cellular behavior, and well-documented compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). Recently, microcarriers have been emerging as a novel approach for stem cell expansion and differentiation, enabling potential scale-up of stem cell-derived products in large bioreactors. This review summarizes recent advances of using microcarriers in mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) and pluripotent stem cell (PSC) cultures. From the reported data, efficient expansion and differentiation of stem cells on microcarriers rely on their ability to modulate cell shape (i.e. round or spreading) and cell organization (i.e. aggregate size). Nonetheless, current screening of microcarriers remains empirical, and accurate understanding of how stem cells interact with microcarriers still remains unknown. This review suggests that accurate characterization of biochemical and biomechanical properties of microcarriers is required to fully exploit their potential in regulating stem cell fate decision. Due to the variety of microcarriers, such detailed analyses should lead to the rational design of application-specific microcarriers, enabling the exploitation of reproducible effects for large scale biomedical applications. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29:1354–1366, 2013