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‘Artificial Golgi’ Could Provide New Insight Into Key Cell Structure

July 29, 2009

Scientists in New York and North Carolina are reporting assembly of the first functioning prototype of an artificial Golgi organelle. That key structure inside cells helps process and package hormones, enzymes, and other substances that allow the body to function normally. The lab-on-a-chip device could lead to a faster and safer method for producing heparin, the widely used anticoagulant or blood thinner, the researchers note. Their study is scheduled for the Aug. 12 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

The Golgi organelle is named for Camillo Golgi, the Italian scientist and Nobel Prize winner who discovered the structure in 1898. It is composed of a network of sacs, stacked like a deck of playing cards, located inside cells. In the new study, Robert Linhardt and colleagues point out that Golgi bodies are one of the most poorly understood organelles (specialized structures inside cells) in the human body. Scientists already know, however, that the organelles play a key role in producing heparin, a substance that helps prevent clotting.

The researchers describe development of a prototype lab-on-a-chip device that closely mimics the natural Golgi apparatus. They showed in lab tests that the device could quickly and efficiently produce heparin. It did so in an assembly-line fashion using a combination of enzymes, sugars and other raw materials and demonstrated that the substance has a strong clot-fighting potential. In the future, an “artificial Golgi” could lead to a faster and safer method for producing heparin, the scientists suggest.

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Image Caption: Researchers have developed an artificial version of the Golgi organelle, shown in this illustration of a cell cross-section. The device could lead to a better method for producing heparin, they say. Credit: The American Chemical Society

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