Synthetic Molecules that Adhere Cells Could Galvanize Regenerative Medicine
Researchers at UC San Francisco (UCSF) have engineered molecules that act like “cellular glue,” allowing them to direct in precise fashion how cells bond with each other. The discovery represents a major step toward building tissues and organs, a long-sought goal of regenerative medicine.
Adhesive molecules are found naturally throughout the body, holding its tens of trillions of cells together in highly organized patterns. They form structures, create neuronal circuits and guide immune cells to their targets. Adhesion also facilitates communication between cells to keep the body functioning as a self-regulating whole.
In a new study, published in the Dec. 12, 2022, issue of Nature, researchers engineered cells containing customized adhesion molecules that bound with specific partner cells in predictable ways to form complex multicellular ensembles.
“We were able to engineer cells in a manner that allows us to control which cells they interact with, and also to control the nature of that interaction,” said senior author Wendell Lim, PhD, the Byers Distinguished Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and director of UCSF’s Cell Design Institute. “This opens the door to building novel structures like tissues and organs.”