Engineered Protein Nanosheets at Liquid-Liquid Interfaces for Stem Cell Expansion, Sorting and Tissue Engineering

Principal investigator: Julien GAUTROT
Funding source(s): EU Commission - Horizon 2020
 Start: 01-09-2018  /  End: 31-08-2023
 Amount: £2,011,161
Cells growing at the surface of oil droplets

A long standing dogma in the field of cell-based technologies is that bulk mechanical properties of solid substrates are essential to enable cell spreading, proliferation and fate decision. The use of solid materials to culture adherent cells constitutes an important hurdle for the scale up, automation and speed up of cell culture and recovery. Our recent results show that bulk solid substrates are not necessary to promote cell adhesion, growth and fate regulation as adherent stem cells spread and proliferate readily at the surface of ultra-soft materials, even liquids. In such cases, cell adhesion is enabled by the formation of a mechanically strong layer (nanosheet) of proteins at the interface between the oil (liquid substrate) and aqueous medium. This key discovery opens the door to the engineering of protein nanosheets enabling the use of liquid, free-flowing substrates sustaining cell adhesion, expansion, isolation and recovery.
ProLiCell will design the biochemical and mechanical properties of extracellular matrix (ECM) protein nanosheets that can sustain the formation of adhesion protein complexes and support cell proliferation and culture on materials with very weak bulk mechanical properties (liquids).