Making Every Cell Matter

November 1, 2016

Encapsulated single cell rendered in three dimensions
[Image credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University]

Alginate hydrogels - which are derived from the polysaccharide found in brown seaweed - have emerged as an effective material for manipulating cells and tissues due to their biocompatibility and the ability to tune their mechanical and biochemical properties to match physiological conditions found inside the body.

Already they have been demonstrated to influence the differentiation of stem cells, incite immune attacks on cancer cells, and weaken tumors’ resistance to chemotherapy, but as of yet, hydrogels have mostly been useful for controlling groups of cells at large rather than individual cells. ...

Now, thanks to the joint efforts of a team... [of researchers, including Prof. David Weitz], a new and highly effective microfluidic method for encapsulating single cells in microscale hydrogels sets the stage for a dramatic increase in the specificity of control that can be exerted upon cells and their ability to survive implantation.

Read the rest of the Press Release on the Wyss Institute website, and the original Letter in Nature Materials: A.S. Mao, J.-W. Shin, S. Utech, H. Wang, Oktay Uzun, W. Li, M. Cooper, Y. Hu, L. Zhang, D.A. Weitz & D.J. Mooney, "Deterministic encapsulation of single cells in thin tunable microgels for niche modelling and therapeutic delivery," Nature Materials (2016) doi:10.1038/nmat4781.