Scientists have figured out how embryonic cells exchange mechanical signals

(ORDO NEWS) — American researchers have described how the cells of a growing embryo exchange mechanical signals with each other in order to start tissue formation in a coordinated manner.

To do this, they form a foamy state, constantly attracting and repelling each other. The results of the study will improve the methods of tissue engineering.

In the process of embryogenesis, the decision to form tissues does not come from individual cells. This is a collective task that requires cells to constantly communicate with each other.

There are various ways of communication. At the moment, it is well known how cells communicate with each other using biochemical signals, but very little is known about their use of touch.

Now scientists from the University of California at Santa Barbara (USA) have described in an article how embryonic cells interact with their environment, and what mechanical parameters they perceive.

It is this collective mechanical perception that helps cells jointly make important decisions about moving, dividing, and even becoming specialized cells of various tissues.

Previously, the sense of touch of embryonic cells was studied on synthetic substrates, which did not allow to completely recreate the complex three-dimensional environment inside the growing embryo.

Scientists have been able to overcome this limitation. First, they explored how cells mechanically check their microenvironment as they build the body’s axis.

It turned out that for this they are fixed on various ledges and try to repel or pull the environment around them.

The authors were able to quantify how quickly and strongly the cells do this.

To do this, the scientists used a drop of ferromagnetic oil, which they placed between the embryonic cells and subjected to a magnetic field.

This made it possible to simulate tiny mechanical forces and measure the mechanical response of the cell environment.

Of decisive importance in this process was the collective physical state of the cells, which scientists called “active foam”.

It had the consistency of soap or beer suds, with the cells sticking together and pulling each other towards them.

This is how they exchanged information about the collective state of the “active foam”, tested how rigid it was and how limited it was.

When it came time to differentiate, that is, to turn into specialized tissue cells, the “active foam” disappeared. The results of the study are extremely important for tissue engineering.

The fact is that materials that mimic the foam-like characteristics of embryonic tissue (as opposed to the widely used synthetic polymer or gel scaffolds) can make it possible to create stronger and more complex synthetic tissues, organs, and implants with the desired geometry and mechanical characteristics.

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