Researchers have discovered a novel way to attach biomaterials to living cells

The University of Twente has developed a completely new method of attaching biomaterials to living cells. This allows us to teach the body new things. We can also learn about the interaction between the cell and its environment. In this instance, the biomaterial is connected to the cell’s surface via an intermediate step. This prevents immune reactions and allows you to switch the connection off or on at your discretion. This could be used to guide stem cells or influencing cells around a tumor. Tom Kamperman and Jeroen Leijten who have named their new cell toolkit DOCKING, which is inducible on-cell crosslinking report their findings in Advanced Materials.

Cells require that they can feel their surroundings. Mechanical properties greatly influence the behavior of stem cells. For example: soft surroundings induce the stem cell to form fat, while hard surroundings trigger bone formation. In the majority of research and treatments cells are paired with materials that cells can directly attach and can feel the material. However, the binding of cells to materials like those mentioned above could cause the formation of immune cells. This triggers a powerful immune response. It is difficult to stop this and scar tissue may hinder the implant from working properly.

Researchers have discovered a fully new way of binding cells to materials that are inert in themselves: normally speaking, they are not able to attach to cells. The researchers used the amino acide Tyrosine, which is naturally found in and around cells. The biomaterial will then be made functional by tyramine. The is a molecule that has a structure that is similar to the tyrosine. The biomaterial could be linked to cells via an enzymatic reaction that is cell-friendly. In this way, researchers can control the cells that can’stick in’, and at what precise place. The stopping of the chemical reaction changes the material back to inert. In the course of the chemical reaction, some cells can feel the biomaterial. This allows stem cells to take control. There is no active formation scar tissue.

Researchers use this new method of attaching cells to understand the way cells function and also to stimulate cells and steer them with mechanical stimulation. For instance, how does the stem cell transform into fat tissue? The new connection also allows to answer new questionslike: at what moment do cells require stimuli to guide it in the right direction? The most interesting result of the first experiments with DOCKING was that the major decision to determine if a cell is in a ‘hard’ or’soft environment was made within one day. This means that cells’ initial environment determines how wounds heal and how implantable living tissue can function.

Many diseases, including those involving tumors, also require measurement and control of stiffness. DOCKING offers a valuable instrument for research and active influence on the interaction of cells and other materials. Using this toolkit, the researchers are hoping to accelerate research in Regenerative medicine, drug delivery systems and cell therapy, all the way to production of cultured meat.

Journal reference:

Kamperman, T., and al. (2021). Tethering Cells by Enzymatic Oxidative crosslinking facilitates Mechanotransduction In Non-Cell Adhesive Materials. Advanced Materials.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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