Research Highlights

Continuous harvest of stem cells is now possible

Published online 9 November 2015

Scientists create a stem-cell-generating nanobrush. 

Biplab Das

Scientists have created a nanobrush surface that can be used to continuously grow human adult stem cells and human embryonic stem cells1. It is possible to culture, detach and harvest stem cells from the nanobrush surface by tweaking ambient temperature. 

This way the nanobrush surface, made of three copolymers, can provide an endless supply of stem cells that can potentially be used to treat diseases such as diabetes and cancer.  

“The nanobrush surface would create a table-size bioreactor for stem cell culture system, reducing the cost and time of stem cell culture,” says lead researcher Akon Higuchi from Taiwan-based National Central University. 

Teaming up with Abdullah A. Alarfaj of King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, Higuchi and his colleagues separately grew human adult stem cells and human embryonic stem cells on the nanobrush surface. When temperatures are lowered below 20 °C, most of the stem cells get detached from the nanobrush surface. 

This temperature-dependent detachment allows enzyme-free stem cell harvest. After harvest, the remaining stem cells on the nanobrush surface proliferated on adding fresh nutrients, allowing the reuse of the surface. 

After three cycles of stem cell culture, detachment and harvest, the embryonic stem cells retained their ability to differentiate into specialized tissue cells. This suggests that these stem cells could replenish damaged tissues in diseases, the researchers say.  


  1. Peng, I-C. et al. Continuous harvest of stem cells via partial detachment from thermoresponsive nanobrush surfaces. Biomaterials (2015).