Agarose Salt Bridges (image) University of California - San Diego Caption The translucent materials bridging the dishes are "agarose salt bridges" -- part of the electrochemical cell that UC San Diego undergraduate bioengineering researchers used to subject hydrogels to an electric field. The bioengineers achieved the "Triple Crown" of stem cell culture - they created an artificial environment for stem cells that simultaneously provides the chemical, mechanical and electrical cues necessary for stem cell growth and differentiation. Building better microenvironments for nurturing stem cells is critical for realizing the promises of stem-cell-based regenerative medicine, including cartilage for joint repair, cardiac cells for damaged hearts, and healthy skeletal myoblasts for muscular dystrophy patients. The advance could also lead to better model systems for fundamental stem cell research. Credit UC San Diego / Daniel Kane Usage Restrictions UC San Diego / Daniel Kane Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.