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A new way to assemble cells into 3-D microtissues
Date:3/5/2009

rmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California at San Francisco, based their method of assembling 3-D microtissues on an approach familiar to synthetic organic chemists, who build up novel molecular structures by combining one atom or functional group at a time. In the same way, Bertozzi and Gartner use synthetic methods to build microtissues one cell type at a time. Their results appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS Early Edition week of March 2, 2009.

Controlling cellular connections

The researchers enabled cells to react with other cells in a controlled way by coating the cell surfaces with DNA (not where DNA is normally found!). First they induced the cells to express artificial sugars bearing special chemical groups. Lengths of synthetic DNA, introduced into the cell-growth medium, were equipped to recognize these synthetic sugars on the cell surfaces and chemically bind to them.

The researchers coated cell surfaces from one group with strands of single-stranded DNA only 20 bases long, and the surfaces of another group with the complementary DNA strand. When a cell from one group meets its counterpart, the single strands recognize each other and form double-stranded DNA, which binds the cells together.

Bertozzi and Gartner discovered three variables that determine how cells from different groups react with one another. One is the ratio of the two kinds of cells: if both cell populations are equal, every cell finds a single partner and no complex assemblies form. But if there are, say, 50 times more cells from one group than from the other, numerous cells from the larger group will cluster around each cell from the smaller group.

Another variable is the complexity of the synthetic DNA sequence. The researchers can specify the complexity for example, from a simple repeat of two bases such as cytosine and adenine (CACACA...) on one strand, which binds to
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Contact: Paul Preuss
paul_preuss@lbl.gov
510-486-6249
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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