New Polymer Cell Organelles Hold Promise for Cell Repair and Rejuvenation
Posted Jan 27 2009 8:13pm
New research from the University of Basel offers the hope of replacing or supplementing an aging or dysfunctional cells organelles with polymer replacements. The Swiss researchers were able to upgrade human cells in a petri dish, using the polymer organelles.
The artificial organelle's membrane can be chemically tuned to control which chemicals can pass through it and regulate the reactions inside, according to Wolfgang Meier, one of the researchers. "We call it a 'nanoreactor'," he says...At 200 nanometres across, the organelles are 400 times smaller in width than a human hair.
...Artificial organelles might .. be able to treat conditions caused by a deficit of a particular enzyme. For example, someone with lactose intolerance could have their digestive cells given artificial organelles containing lactose-digesting enzymes.
In the far future, it might be possible to introduce non-human metabolic functions into human cells. "We could, in principle, bring in a nanoreactor that [lets] your skin do something like photosynthesis. So if you are hungry, you just lie in the Sun," says Meier. __ NS _via_Kurzweilai.net
These polymer organelles are reminiscent of the polymer "red blood cells" invented by Joseph DeSimone at the University of North Carolina.
He has created tiny sacks of the polymer polyethylene glycol just 8 micrometres across – in the range of human red blood cells – that are capable of deforming in a way that allows them to pass through the tiniest capillaries.
Polyethylene glycol is biologically benign, but binds easily with other substances, which makes it ideal for carrying cargo through the blood, says DeSimone.
For example, a haemoglobin-type molecule carried inside the bag could deliver oxygen to the body and carry away carbon dioxide. The bags could also deliver drugs instead, or help as contrast agents for scans such as magnetic resonance imaging, PET or ultrasound. __ NS _suggested by Will Brown
The ability to create tiny organs and organelles to replace malfunctioning or deficient human cells and cell components offers a more profound level of therapy than medical practice has been accustomed to. Over time, a more full array of uses for these polymer replacements will no doubt be devised.