Research Highlights

Functional Cell Adhesives that Induce Bioactivity (2010.10.3)

2011-03-17 934

Professor Hyung Joon Cha, Chemical Engineering Department, has been known for his work on cell adhesives that induce the bioactivity of cells. His adhesives were devised after special characteristics of cells by combining mussel adhesion proteins and bioactive peptides that send certain signals to cells. His work was introduced in the publication of Biomaterials, an authoritative journal in biomaterial science, in December, 2010. Professor Cha’s research team is consisted of Research Professor Yoo-sung Choi and PhD candidate Bong-hyuk Choi.

Mussels use their adhesion proteins not to be swept away by ocean waves by attaching themselves to large underwater rocks. They are excellent in gluing themselves to a wide range of surfaces like plastic, glass, metal, wood, and also biomaterials. Moreover, although chemical adhesives lose their bonding strength if they become wet or humid, mussel adhesives have proved to become even more powerful under such circumstances. As a consequence, they become most useful for underwater construction.

Also, mussel adhesion proteins do not harm the human body. They neither attack nor have immune reactions with human cells, and therefore they are excellent substitutes for stitches in surgical operations. The adhesive discovered by Professor Cha benefit greatly from these properties and it attaches actual cells after coating them on various biomaterials. It appears to be very similar to ‘extracellular matrix,’ which is the general name for all the structural substances on the outside of cells.

The bonding strength tended to be inherently weak for conventional cell adhesives. Such weakness could be reinforced with peptide added to the surface, but the method used until now was not very effective and harmful to the human body, because the chemicals had poisonous properties. Also, it was difficult to add several peptides at the same time, therefore making it restrictive in building a similar environment with the extracellular matrix.

The team initially succeeded in mass producing the mussel adhesive proteins through genetic engineering in 2007; the team developed a liquid bio-adhesive based on his first discovery in March, 2010; and they finally developed the recent phenomenal cell adhesive that adhere cells by attaching various functional peptides effectively on biomaterials.

Through their work of making various kinds of functional cell adhesives with the respective peptides, thereby revitalizing the functions of cells, the research team propose that the cell revitalization probability increases if the functional cell adhesives are mixed in the right proportions compared to using only one peptide.

The new adhesive is two times more bioactive compared to other poly-l-lysine, while production costs do not differ much. Moreover, it helps the spreading, survival, maturation and differentiation of cells, and can be made for certain purposes, hence enabling the matriculation of an extracellular matrix-like environment for specifically targeted cells, including stem cells.

“Our team is the first in our field to develop a mussel adhesive protein that can be applied for practical use, and we are currently advancing to commercialize it through technology transfer,” remarked Professor Cha on his achievement, and added that his team “expects to use the results not only for tissue engineering, but also for reagents or cosmetics.”