For an organism to develop and function, the individual cells must exchange information, or communicate, with each other. Is it possible to learn their language and “talk to” the cells?
Yes it is: Cameron Alexander and George Pasparakis at the University of Nottingham (UK) have been able to facilitate a conversation between bacterial cells and artificial polymer vesicles. In the journal Angewandte Chemie they report that this first communication occurred by way of sugar groups on the vesicle surface. The vesicles subsequently transfer information to the cells—in the form of dye molecules.
Complex structures made of many sugar components on the surfaces of cells are the “language” used for processes such as cell recognition, for example, in the differentiation of tissues or the identification of endogenous cells and foreign invaders. Scientists would like to be able to use this glycocode to “address” target cells and to intervene directly in cellular processes to treat diseases or to guide regeneration of damaged tissues.
The British scientists took an interesting route to learn more about the “language” of cells: they constructed vesicles, tiny capsules whose outer shell is made of special polymer building blocks. Their special trick: the polymer chains are equipped with side chains bearing glucose units that wind up being exposed on the vesicle surface.
The researchers brought the vesicles together with bacteria that have glucose-binding proteins on their surface. The behavior of the bacteria varies depending on the polymer’s composition and the size of the vesicles. Among the bacteria were some individuals that enter into very strong bonds with large vesicles. These associated bacteria are then in a position to receive molecular “information” from the vesicles: dye molecules that were previously placed in the vesicles transferred specifically into the interior of these bacteria.
“Our vesicles can be viewed as simple replicas of living cells,” says Alexander, “that can communicate with real cells by way of the glycocode as well as through signal molecules inside the vesicles.” Possible applications include drug transporters that deliver their cargo to specific target cells, or antibiotic transporters that deliver their toxic load exclusively to infectious agents.
Author: Cameron Alexander, University of Nottingham (UK), http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/pharmacy/stafflookup/staff-list.php
Title: Sweet Talking Double Hydrophilic Block Copolymer Vesicles
Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2008, 47, No. 26, 4847–4850, doi: 10.1002/anie.200801098
Cameron Alexander | Angewandte Chemie
Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells
12.12.2018 | Universität Basel
Smelling the forest – not the trees
12.12.2018 | Universität Konstanz
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
12.12.2018 | Health and Medicine
12.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
12.12.2018 | Health and Medicine