Gelatin Electrospun Mat as a Potential Co-culture System for In Vitro Production of Sperm Cells from Embryonic Stem Cells

Mina Vardiani, Marefat Ghaffari Novin, Morteza Koruji, Hamid Nazarian, Ellen Goossens, Abbas Aghaei, Alexander M Seifalian, Hatef Ghasemi Hamidabadi, Fatemeh Asgari, Mazaher Gholipourmalekabadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Engineering of 3D substrates with maximum similarity to seminiferous tubules would help to produce functional sperm cells in vitro from stem cells. Here, we present a 3D electrospun gelatin (EG) substrate seeded with Sertoli cells and determine its potential for guided differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) toward germline cells. The EG was fabricated by electrospinning, and its morphology under SEM, as well as cytobiocompatibility for Sertoli cells and ESCs, was confirmed by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide and cell attachment assay. Embryoid bodies (EBs) were formed from ESCs and co-cultured with Sertoli cells, induced with BMP4 for 3 and 7 consecutive days to induce the differentiation of EBs toward germline cells. The differentiation was investigated by immunocytochemistry (ICC), flow cytometry, and RT-PCR in four experimental groups of EBs (EBs cultured in gelatin-coated cell culture plates); Scaffold/EB (EBs cultured on EG); ESCs/Ser (EBs and Sertoli cells co-cultured on gelatin-coated cell culture plates without EG); and Scaffold/EB/Ser (EBs and Sertoli cells co-cultured on EG). All experimental groups exhibited a significantly increased MVH (germline-specific marker) and decreased c-KIT (stemness marker) expression when compared with the EB group. ICC and flow cytometry revealed that Scaffold/EB/Ser had the highest level of MVH and the lowest c-KIT expression at both 3 and 7 days postdifferentiation compared with other groups. RT-PCR results showed a significant increase in the germline marker (Dazl) and a significant decrease in the ESC stemness marker (Nanog) in Scaffold/EB compared to the EB group. The germline markers Gcna, Stella, Mvh, Stra8, Piwil2, and Dazl were significantly increased in Scaffold/EB/Ser compared to the Scaffold/EB group. Our findings revealed that the EG scaffold can provide an excellent substrate biomimicking the micro/nanostructure of native seminiferous tubules and a platform for Sertoli cell-EB communication required for growth and differentiation of ESCs into germline cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5823-5832
Number of pages10
JournalACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Co-culture
  • Sertoli cell
  • electrospun
  • embryonic bodies
  • extracellular matrix
  • gelatin


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