April 10, 2008

Protective “˜Shells’ Extend the Shelf life of Cells

Researchers in China have created protective casings for living cells in hopes of being able to preserve them for future transplantation and repair of damaged tissues caused by cancer.

Inspired by the simplicity of eggshells, researchers created mineral "shells" that preserved more than 80 percent of the yeast cells alive after being held for one month at room temperature. Without protection, yeast cells typically die in much less time.

"This coating is made of calcium phosphate, (the material in) bone and tooth in mammals. It is biologically compatible and living cells would still be alive after getting the coating," said Tang Ruikang at the Zhejiang University in eastern China.

"The function of the shell is very close to clothes that we wear. The clothes can't change the nature of the human, but they can protect us."

Tang said he hopes to use the shells to protect living human cells, before implanting them into damaged bones or other human tissues to repair them in an effort to battle cancer.

"When we implant cells into bones, the cells must be kept at very low temperatures, but with this technique we can wrap the cells and keep them alive for a long time in room temperature and then implant them into the living system," Tang said.

"We can also wrap viruses and deliver them into cancer cells. Cancer cells love to eat calcium phosphate and once the shells are broken down, the viruses are released and they can eat up cancer cells."


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Zhejiang University