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CIC biomaGUNE researchers succeed in efficiently harvesting cells and tissues using infrared light

A study conducted by the Centre for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials (CIC biomaGUNE) has managed to efficiently harvest laboratory-grown cells, using infrared light in combination with plasmonic nanoparticles, for application in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. This research is based on the use of infrared light and plasmonic nanoparticles specifically fabricated on substrates for application.

The infrared light interacts with the nanoparticles to generate sufficient energy to detach the cells from the substrates on which they have been grown. The soft infrared light is of sufficiently low energy to enable cell detachment without damage and a nigh-on 100% cell survival rate during the cell retrieval process, representing a previously unknown level of viability. This research work, conducted by Juan José Giner-Casares, Malou Henriksen-Lacey and Isabel García under the direction of Luis Liz-Marzán, has been published and distinguished as a “Hot Paper” in the International Edition of the prestigious German scientific journal Angewandte Chemie. The technique of cell culture is widely used, both in industry and in the field of research, in areas as diverse as virology, biotechnology, immunology, pharmacology and for producing artificial tissues. “The main problem arises when the time comes to collect these cells and tissues. The highly invasive nature of the detachment processes means that many of these biological bodies die before they are able to be used. This is of particular relevance in the case of cells of high added value, where even minimal loss is of great importance in the process as a whole. Our research is important for improving the viability of human cells or cells of high added value. Cell integrity is absolutely fundamental for implanting tissue culture in humans, as we are dealing with a culture designed to form part of a living person”, explained Juan José Giner-Casares. Block copolymer-modified nanolithography is used by the team of researchers to create highly ordered substrates of nanoparticles which are chemically modified to secure optimised plasmonic conditions. The surface of these minute plasmonic nanoparticles can be loaded with a very high-intensity electromagnetic field, thereby opening up a wide range of possibilities. In this case, it is used to amplify the infrared light radiated onto the culture, which causes a very localised and mild increase in temperature at the surface of the nanoparticles in contact with the cell wall. The cells respond by gently detaching themselves from the substrate, without damaging themselves in doing so. This is a clear example of the multidisciplinary research conducted in CIC biomaGUNE, a centre in which researchers specialised in chemistry and physics find an application for their research through interaction with biology. The findings of this study show that cells or any tissue grown on glass or plastic can be retrieved by applying infrared light. Furthermore, the success of the study has led CIC biomaGUNE to apply for the European patent for the possible commercial exploitation of these research findings. About CIC biomaGUNE The Centre for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials (CIC biomaGUNE), located in the Donostia-San Sebastián Technology Park, conducts cutting-edge research at the interface between Chemistry, Biology and Physics, and particularly on the properties of molecular level biological nanostructures and their biomedical applications.