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Method creates path for artificial tissue engineering

New York — Researchers at New York University have developed a method that models biological cell-to-cell adhesion and could have applications that include artificial tissue engineering.

The system is an oil-in-water solution with surface properties that reproduce those found on biological cells, Medical News Today reports. Specifically, adhesion between compressed oil droplets mimics the mechanical properties of tissues and opens the path to a variety of practical applications.

Cell-to-cell adhesion is crucial to the integrity of tissue structure, but the complexity of biological systems has long prevented their description using general theoretical concepts taken from the physical sciences. For this reason, the NYU researchers designed an original biomimetic solution, or emulsion, that reproduces the main features of cell-to-cell adhesion in tissues.

By varying the amount of force by which the droplets of oil were compressed by centrifugation and the amount of salt added to this solution, the researchers were able to isolate the optimal conditions for cell-to-cell adhesion. Screening electrostatic charges by the addition of salt and compressing the droplets by force enhances protein-protein interactions on the droplet surfaces, which, in turn, leads to adhesion between contacting droplets covering all the interfaces, just as with biological tissues.

Their results offer a method for manipulating force and pressure in order to bind emulsions and serve as a starting point for, among other things, improving pharmaceuticals by bolstering the delivery of therapeutic molecules to the blood stream.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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