Scientists Create Tissues By Linking Cells

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UC Berkeley researchers have formed three-dimensional microtissue from cells in an effort that may lend insight into the causes of cancer and aid in the future development of artificial organs.

Scientists are currently making microtissues, which are groups of similar cells types, to observe how different types of cells interact when put together.

To make microtissues, researchers linked cells together with by putting matching DNA strands on cells that they wished to attach to one another.

"DNA is a polymer that encodes information within it. Depending on the sequence, you can determine what your strand will stick to," said Zev Gartner, acting assistant professor in the department of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco, who co-authored the study and worked on the project while at UC Berkeley.

The study appeared in last week's online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This process of looking at individual cells started in 2003 as a collaboration among UC Berkeley scientists in the chemistry department. The labs of Jay Groves, Matthew Francis, Richard Mathies and study co-author Carolyn Bertozzi worked together to find the best method for studying individual cells.

Scientists at UC Berkeley are now attaching cells to surfaces and monitoring how they interact with other cells.

In their research, they hope to learn more about the cell's metabolism and determine which genes are turned on in specific cells, said Francis, assistant professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley.

Researchers said this would help them learn what would make a cell behave differently from a neighboring cell.

"Imagine a skyscraper-the minimal function unit is the room, and people exhibit manifest behaviors in rooms," Gartner said. "Put the rooms together to get a skyscraper. This is a clunky analogy for what we're doing, which is defining immediate neighbors of a single cell and using that as a building block for larger structures."

Through this process, researchers are able to create cell structures and mimic structures present in the human body.

For this study, researchers modeled a lymph node using cells that generated signals of the immune cell and other cells that respond to those signals.

In the future, researchers said they hope to examine how cancer occurs.

They said that by creating different configurations of cells, they can gain insight into why mutations take place, causing misregulations such as those present in cancer cells.

"Why, for example, do some people develop cancer early in their life while others develop it later in their life?" Gartner said. "That's obviously a function of what types of environments we're exposed to. A lot of things manifest themselves in how cells interact with one another in their tissue."

Tags: BIOLOGY


Christine Chen covers research & ideas. Contact her at [email protected]



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