system modeling biological cell-to-cell adhesion, the purpose of which can
cover an extensive ambit ranging from consumer products to industrial
application, is a remarkable breakthrough by Physicists of New York University.
The surface properties of the oil-in-water solution replicate the ones found on
biological cells. Jasna Brujić, Assistant Professor, NYU's Department of Physics in
collaboration with Center for Soft Matter Research, explicates on the
subject to Medindia.
Where is the scope to use the solution
in the broad spectrum of medical science?
Lipid stabilized emulsions allow one to bind specific
proteins (e.g. streptavidin or cadherin) or polymers (e.g. polyethylene glycol)
to the droplet surfaces. This specificity could in principle allow one to
deliver molecules of interest (e.g. drugs) to particular tissues in the body.
The biocompatibility of the emulsion would make it a useful scaffold on which
to culture cells in 3D, for example for tissue engineering.
Can you elaborate on its industrial
application and use in consumer products?
Possible applications for this biomimetic emulsion range
from cosmetic products that seek compatibility with skin cells on which they
are deposited (such as body lotions or hand creams) to food emulsions that
require different levels of adhesion between the droplets (e.g. butter or
mayonnaise). Tuning the adhesion between the droplets by compression or protein
concentration opens novel ways to control the mechanical properties of these
How would your invention contribute to
the advancement of artificial tissue engineering?
Our invention is ONLY a mechanical model of tissues - the emulsion has a
similar bulk modulus to tissues and the forces between the droplets are of the
same order as those between cells. By mimicking the chemical composition of
cell membranes we can therefore probe the effect of forces and an external
pressure (or load) on the intercellular protein interactions. For example, we
plan to test the influence of interdroplet forces on the binding between
cadherins, which are known to be a major component of cell-to-cell
What kind of trials do you conduct to
create the solution? How do you test it? Apply it?
We are doing basic (not applied) research. We make the emulsions either by
shearing the oil in water emulsion until it reaches a characteristic droplet
size, or we make them drop by drop using microfluidic devices. We then compress
them by centrifugation and image the resulting packing of droplets using
confocal microscopy. We then test how the forces between the droplets influence
the size of protein adhesions, as well as the likelihood of adhesions forming
at all. We find that adhesions grow in number and in size with the applied
Since artificial tissue engineering is
being discussed, there are few organs grown in labs in the field of
regenerative medicine. How would the solution aid in growing organs?
It would not - our emulsion system is not made of real cells and would
therefore not be appropriate for organs.
What are the materials
used in the solution? Are they synthetic in nature? Or is the solution composed
Yes, our emulsions are made of oil, water, lipids and proteins. It does not
contain biological materials.
The study was authored by Jasna Brujić Assistant
Professor, Lea-Laetitia Pontani, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Ivane
Jorjadze, Graduate Student, NYU's Department of Physics and the Center for Soft
Matter Research and Virgile Viasnoff, Associate Professor at the National
University of Singapore and the French research institute, CNRS/ESPCI. Medindia
wishes the team more success in all their future endeavors.