Method grows polymers on cell surface without damaging the cell | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 95 Issue 6 | p. 9 | Concentrates
Issue Date: February 6, 2017

Method grows polymers on cell surface without damaging the cell

Controlled radical polymerization is gentle enough to use with mammalian cells
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: polymers, coatings, cells, controlled radical polymerization
[+]Enlarge
Dye-labeled polymers (purple) are found only at the surface of these yeast cells. The fluorescein diacetate treatment (green) indicates that the cells are still alive.
Credit: Nat. Chem.
Fluorescent image of polymer-coated yeast cells.
 
Dye-labeled polymers (purple) are found only at the surface of these yeast cells. The fluorescein diacetate treatment (green) indicates that the cells are still alive.
Credit: Nat. Chem.

Modifying the surface of cells with synthetic polymers offers a strategy for manipulating cellular behavior. Usually researchers make such modifications by attaching premade polymers to functional groups on the cell surface, but that “grafting-to” approach isn’t very efficient. An alternative approach involves “grafting from,” in which a polymer grows from an initiator on the cell surface. But this has been hard to do in ways that keep the cells—especially mammalian cells—alive. H. Tom Soh of Stanford University; Jia Niu and Craig J. Hawker of the University of California, Santa Barbara; and coworkers report an approach using a light-mediated controlled radical polymerization method that is gentle enough to use with mammalian cells (Nat. Chem. 2017, DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2713). The researchers used cell-surface-anchoring derivatives of 2-(butylthiocarbonothioyl)propionic acid as the chain-transfer agents that are attached to the cells and initiate the reaction. The polymer chain (shown) grows through the addition of cell-compatible polyethylene glycol-based acrylamide monomers. Yeast cells modified this way continued to grow and divide normally. For mammalian cells, which are more delicate, the researchers switched to lipidlike anchor compounds that insert themselves into the cell membrane. They could then modify mammalian cells without harming them. The researchers plan to use the coating to control the cells’ biochemistry and to modulate cell-cell interactions.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment