Physicists Devise Method for Building Artificial Tissue

Posted on 6/18/2012 2:58:39 PM By ASC

R&D Magazine

A team of physicists at New York University (NYU) have developed a model of biological cell-to-cell adhesion that could have a wide range of applications. The model was created by Jasna Brujic, an assistant professor in NYU's Department of Physics and part of its Center for Soft Matter Research. The system involves an oil-in-water solution with surface properties that imitate those on biological cells. The adhesion between compressed oil droplets resembles those mechanical properties of tissues. This could lead to various practical applications, including biocompatible cosmetics and artificial tissue engineering. Brujic's laboratory previously found how spheres pack together and worked on a method to manipulate the packing process. In the most recent study, the research team attempted to address the role of packing in tissues from the perspective of the mechanics behind protein-protein adhesion between cells. Brujic's team designed an original biomimetic emulsion to mimic the main features of cell-to-cell adhesion. This emulsion was designed to match the attractive and repulsive interactions of cell adhesion and reveal the circumstances by which pushing forces create adhesion. The researchers found that, by changing the amount of force by which oil droplets were compressed by centrifugation and by altering the amount of salt in the solution, they could isolate the optimal conditions for adhesion. Screening electrostatic charges by adding salt and forcing the droplets to compress enhances protein-protein interactions on the droplet surfaces, which then leads to adhesion between contacting droplets covering all the interfaces. Researchers describe their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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