The undifferentiated stem cells were then placed onto a circular-patterned surface that served to physically regulate cell differentiation and growth.
By the end of two weeks, the cells that began on a two-dimensional surface environment started taking on a 3D structure as a pulsating microchamber. Moreover, the cells had self-organized based upon whether they were positioned along the perimeter or in the middle of the colony.
To test the potential of the system as a drug-screening tool, the researchers exposed the differentiating cells to thalidomide, a drug known to cause severe birth defects. They found that at normal therapeutic doses, the drug led to abnormal development of microchambers, including decreased size, problems with muscle contraction and lower beat rates compared with heart tissue that had not been exposed to thalidomide.