Karp lab postdoc Debanjan Sarkar simply flooded a dish of cells with three moleculesbiotin, streptavidin, and SLeXone after the other. The biotin and streptavidin anchored SLeX to the cell surface. Sarkar tweaked the concentrations of each molecule to maximize the cell's ability to roll along the interior of the blood vessel, rather than getting lost in the flow. He also confirmed that the altered cells were still viable.
"The method is very simple," says Sarkar, who is first author on the paper. "Plus, biotin and streptavidin work with many molecules, so labs can use this universal anchor we discovered to tackle other problems. They're not limited to sticking SLeX on cells."
The team worked with human cells extracted from the bone marrow. The cultures included mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which can form fat cells, cartilage, bone, tendon and ligaments, muscle cells, and even nerve cells. When injected into the bloodstream of patients, MSCs can home to the site of an injury and replace damaged tissue. But just a fraction of cultured MSCs currently reach their target in clinical trials. Karp's procedure might improve their homing abilities.
Karp cautions that his lab's discovery must be validated in animals, before doctors can apply it in the clinic. He's collaborating with another lab to test the homing ability of the SLeX-dotted cells in mice.
"We need to confirm that this rolling behavior translates into increased homing and tissue repair," explains Karp. "We may need to tweak the cells further."
"This is definitely an approach that should be tried," adds Pamela Robey, chief of the Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Robey is working to reconstruct three-dimensional tissues with MSCs. "Jeff hasn't tested the altered MSCs inside animals, and that's really the
|Contact: Alyssa Kneller|
Harvard Medical School