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Tissue engineering could transform medicine. Instead of waiting for our bodies to regrow or repair damage after an injury or disease, scientists could grow complex, fully functional tissues in a laboratory for transplantation into patients.
Proteins are key to this future. In our bodies, protein signals tell cells where to go, when to divide and what to do. In the lab, scientists use proteins for the same purpose—placing proteins at specific points on or within engineered scaffolds, and then using these protein signals to control cell migration, division and differentiation.
Proteins - Settings - Scaffolds - Researchers - Proteins
But proteins in these settings are also fragile. To get them to stick to the scaffolds, researchers have traditionally modified proteins using chemistries that kill off more than 90 percent of their function. In a paper published May 20 in the journal Nature Materials, a team of researchers from the University of Washington unveiled a new strategy to keep proteins intact and functional by modifying them at a specific point so that they can be chemically tethered to the scaffold using light. Since the tether can also be cut by laser light, this method can create evolving patterns of signal proteins throughout a biomaterial scaffold to grow tissues made up of different types of cells.
"Proteins are the ultimate communicators of biological information," said corresponding author Cole DeForest, a UW assistant professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering, as well as an affiliate investigator with the UW Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine. "They drive virtually all changes in cell function—differentiation, movement, growth, death."
Reason - Scientists - Cell - Growth - Differentiation
For that reason, scientists have long employed proteins to control cell growth and differentiation in tissue engineering.
Photorelease of proteins from a hydrogel. Top: The mCherry red fluorescent proteins are tethered to the hydrogel. Researchers can cleave the tether with directed light (blue arrows), releasing the mCherry from the hydrogel (blue...
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