Stem cell research has the potential to produce novel treatments for previously incurable diseases and injuries. The application of controlled shear flow to undiffer- entiated embryonic stem cells promotes enhanced expansion of cell lines (Fok, E. and Zandstra, P., 2005). Shear stress is also used as a stimulus for differentiation especially for cell types that naturally respond to physiological shear, such as endothelial cells (Yamamoto et al 2003; Illi et al 2005; Wang et al 2005; Yamamoto et al 2005). Differentiation of cells into specific cell types and subsequent produc- tion of biomaterials is also facilitated by mechanical forces such as shear. This is the case with chondrocytes used to produce cartilage (Shuman et al 2006).
The BioFlux system (Figure 1) from Fluxion Biosciences delivers tightly controlled shear flow to biological samples. It utilizes BioFlux Plates which are microfluidic devices incorporated into SBS-standard well plate formats (Figure 2). The system is optimal for stem cell research, and enables the researcher to generate high content microscopy data while cells are growing under flow. The high density format permits the researcher to test up to 96 independent conditions simultaneously. Here, we demonstrate differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells under flow conditions into endothelial cells expressing vonWillebrand factor.