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Building Tissue Layer By Layer

ACS Meeting News: DNA-programmed assembly allows researchers to construct a human mammary gland in the lab

by Celia Henry Arnaud
March 24, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 12

Just as there is a relationship between the structure and function of molecules, scientists suspect there is a relationship between structure and function of tissues and cells. Probing the latter relationship requires the ability to assemble tissues with specific structures. Zev J. Gartner and coworkers at the University of California, San Francisco, do this by attaching single-stranded DNA to cells and using DNA hybridization to direct tissue assembly. They pattern a surface with DNA sequences to which cells with complementary sequences adhere via DNA hybridization. They wash away excess cells and repeat the process with other DNA-labeled cells, growing tissue layer by layer. They then cleave the tissue from the surface and transfer it to a three-dimensional cell culture matrix where it continues to grow. The team is using the method to grow components of human mammary glands, sourcing cells from discarded tissue from breast reduction surgeries. Eventually, the researchers hope to grow tissues that could provide a more physiologically relevant screening platform for drug assays and studying breast cancer, Gartner said. It’s not clear, however, how well the tissue growth process will scale up.


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