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DNA ‘glue’ can help grow tissues, organs

DNA molecules can act as a glue to hold together 3D-printed materials that could be used to grow tissues and organs in the lab, researchers report.

According to Andrew Ellington, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The University of Texas – Austin, researchers have used DNA to assemble objects so tiny that humans cannot see them with the naked eye.

Making them into larger, visible objects is cost-prohibitive. Current methods also do not allow for much control or flexibility in the types of materials that are created.

With this in mind, Ellington’s group set out to create a larger, more affordable material held together with DNA.

The researchers developed DNA-coated nanoparticles made of either polystyrene or polyacrylamide material.

DNA binding adhered these inexpensive nanoparticles to each other, forming gel-like materials that they could extrude from a 3D printer.

The materials were easy to see and could be manipulated without a microscope.

The DNA adhesive also allowed the researchers to control how these gels came together.

“They showed that human cells could grow in the gels, which is the first step toward the ultimate goal of using the materials as scaffolds for growing tissues,” the authors noted.

The process was described in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.


Peter B. Allen, Zin Khaing, Christine E. Schmidt, and Andrew D. Ellington. 3D Printing with Nucleic Acid Adhesives ACS Biomater. Sci. Eng., 2015, 1 (1), pp 19–26 DOI: 10.1021/ab500026f

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