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New technique may help build artificial tissues

Researchers have come up with a method that replicates biological cell-to-cell adhesion, which could also have industrial applications.

Washington: Researchers have come up with a method that replicates biological cell-to-cell adhesion, which could also have industrial applications.

This system, created in the laboratory of Jasna Brujic, an assistant professor in NYU`s Department of Physics and part of its Center for Soft Matter Research, is an oil-in-water solution whose surface properties imitate those found on biological cells.

Specifically, adhesion between compressed oil droplets imitate the mechanical properties of tissues and opens the path to numerous practical applications, ranging from biocompatible cosmetics to artificial tissue engineering. Earlier, Brujic`s laboratory has determined how spheres pack and devised methods for manipulating the packing process.

In this study, Brujic and her research team sought to construct a method that would address the role of packing in tissues from the point of view of how mechanical forces affect protein-protein adhesion between cells. In biology, cell-to-cell adhesion is crucial to the integrity of tissue structure, as cells must come together and stick in order to ensure tissue cohesion.

However, the daunting complexity of biological systems has prevented their description using general theoretical concepts taken from the physical sciences for a long time now.

For this reason, the research team devised an original biomimetic solution, or emulsion, that reproduces the main features of cell-to-cell adhesion in tissues.

Emulsions form the basis for a range of consumer products, which included butter, ice cream, and milk.

In addition, the emulsion in the study is tuned to match the attractive and repulsive interactions that govern the bond between cells.

The experimental conditions have revealed that the conditions under which pushing forces are necessary to create adhesion.

By varying the quantity of force by which the droplets of oil were compressed by centrifugation and the amount of salt added to this solution, the NYU team was able to isolate the optimal conditions for cell-to-cell adhesion.

Screening electrostatic charges by adding salt and compressing the droplets by force boosts protein-protein interactions on the droplet surfaces.

This then leads to adhesion between contacting droplets covering all the interfaces, just as in the case of biological tissues.

Their results, which matched the researchers` theoretical modeling of the process, also offer a technique for manipulating force and pressure in order to bind emulsions.

This serves as a starting point for enriching a range of consumer products, by reconfiguring their molecular make-up to enhance consistency and function, and for improving pharmaceuticals, by encouraging the delivery of therapeutic molecules to the blood stream.

This study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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