After proving that they could assemble cells into microtissues, Gartner and Bertozzi constructed a minute gland analogous to a lymph node, for example such that one cell type secreted interleukin-3 and thereby kept a second cell type alive.
"What we did is build a little miniaturized, stripped-down system that operates on the same principle and looks like a miniaturized lymph node, an arrangement where two cells communicate with each another and one requires a signal from the other," she said. "The critical thing is that the two cells have to have a cell junction. If you just mix the cells randomly without connection, the system doesn't have the same properties."
She expects that eventually, clusters could be built on clusters to make artificial organs that someday may be implanted into humans.
"Our method allows the assembly of multicellular structures from the bottom up. In other words, we can control the neighbors of each individual cell in a mixed population," she said. "By this method, it may be possible to assemble tissues with more sophisticated properties."
One interesting aspect of the technique is that DNA hybridization seems to be temporary, like a suture. Eventually, the cells may substitute their own cell-cell adhesion molecules for the DNA, creating a well-knit and seemingly normal, biological system.
|Contact: Robert Sanders|
University of California - Berkeley