A Brooks Discovery: Super Glue for Cells

Don Brooks, from the Centre for Blood Research (CBR) at the University of British Columbia, led a group of scientists in Canada to make a super-strong cell membrane adhesive and used it to stick red blood cells together. The polymer, based on the phospholipid head group phosphatidyl choline, could be used to secure cells in particular positions for tissue engineering and wound closure.

Brooks Article - SuperGlueDon says inspiration for the work came after trying to understand the chemistry of cell membranes. ‘Phosphatidyl choline [PC] is found in every cell membrane, except for some primitive bacteria, so we wondered what would happen if we were to turn the molecule around to choline phosphate [CP]? Would you get an adhesive effect because the positive and negative charges are now inverted?’ This proved to be the case, and the team demonstrated that branched polyglycerols containing CP bound to a variety of cell membranes.

To enhance the adhesive effect, the team searched for a new monomer based on CP. 2-(Methacryloyloxy)ethyl choline phosphate (MCP) appeared to be the perfect choice, and was easily polymerised using radical polymerisation.

The team tested the adhesive capabilities of their new polymer on red blood cells. ‘Red blood cells have a well-defined structural membrane. Our adhesive sticks the cells together and changes their shape, letting us learn a lot about what the polymer does,’ explains Brooks. The team found that although the cells aggregated together very strongly, there was no damage to the cell membranes, suggesting that the polymer could be used as a tissue sealant….. and perfecting that is an objective towards which they are working hard!

** This summary was taken from a report by Michael Parkin that was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, May 10, 2013. The publication of the described work by Dr. Brooks and coworkers (X Yu et al, Chem. Commun., 2013) can be found at this link.


Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.