Here comes a gel that liquefies on demand

September 29th, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 29 (IANS) Scientists have invented a unique user-friendly gel that can liquefy as and when required, with the potential to revolutionise 3D cell culture for medical research.Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) Singapore synthesised the thixotropic gel from a nanocomposite of silica and polyethylene glycol (PEG) under room temperature, without special storage conditions.

This novel material facilitates the safe and convenient culture of cells in 3-D since cells can be easily added to the gel matrix without any chemical processes, according to a release of IBN. The findings have been published in Nature Nanotechnology.

IBN executive director Jackie Y. Ying said “cell culture is conventionally performed on a flat surface such as glass slides. It is an essential process in biological and medical research.

“Cell culture within a 3D matrix would better mimic the actual conditions in the body as compared to the conventional 2D cell culture on flat surfaces. Three-D cell culture also promises the development of better cell assays for drug screening.”

Another key feature of IBN’s gel is the ease with which researchers can transfer the cultured cells from the matrix by pipetting the required amount from the liquefied gel.

Andrew Wan, IBN’s principal research scientist, added “the thixotropic gel may then provide new insights for basic research and drug development”.

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