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Biological Chemistry

Nanostructured Film Eases Protein Passage

New method allows large proteins to pass directly through epithelial tissue

by Journal News and Community
December 17, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 51

Large proteins can slip through a layer of epithelial cells when researchers place a nanostructured thin film of polymer onto the tissue, a format that eventually could serve as a delivery aid for protein-based drugs (Nano Lett., DOI: 10.1021/nl3037799). Bioengineer Tejal A. Desai of the University of California, San Francisco, used silicon molds to produce polypropylene films covered with carpets of tiny polymer pillars, either 300 nm or 16 µm tall. Her team placed the polymer films onto layers of human intestinal epithelial cells and measured the transport through the layers of three large proteins: immunoglobulin G, bovine serum albumin, and etanercept, which is an arthritis and psoriasis drug. Significantly more protein molecules of each type passed through the cell layer in contact with films covered with short nanopillars than with smooth films or films with the longer pillars. On the basis of observations made via microscopy, the scientists hypothesize that receptors on the cell surfaces that normally link up with other cells instead grab onto these nanopillars. This swap could disrupt the cell-to-cell connections, allowing space for the drugs to slip through.


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