European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), a European intergovernmental research organization, has announced that its scientists have managed to harness the power of optogenetics to guide how cells and tissues grow. They were able to generate different tissue shapes, a capability that may develop into growing tissues for therapeutic applications.
Optogenetics is a technology that allows the activity of cells to be activated using beams of light. The cells themselves have to be genetically modified in order to embed genes that make the cells react to light.
The researchers effectively mimicked epithelial folding, a process that takes place within the embryo but that only occurs in certain types of cells. Their goal was to study the process, but thanks to optogenetics they were able to copy it so that it can be guided and performed by cells that otherwise don’t participate in epithelial folding.
“We’ve uncoupled the link between the shape and function of a cell,” said Stefano De Renzis, a researcher on the project. “This allows us to, for the first time, built tissues in certain shape without affecting the cell’s expertise.”
Here’s an EMBL video about how optogenetics is being used by the organization:
Study in Nature Communications: Guided morphogenesis through optogenetic activation of Rho signalling during early Drosophila embryogenesis…