Bioengineered cell walls open new medical, research possibilities

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Biomedical engineers at Penn State have developed a process to build protective, synthetic plant cell walls around animal cells. The work, published in Nature Communications, could hold significant potential for a variety of medical and biomanufacturing applications for human health.

Plant cells are individually encased in ultrathin cell walls that maintain the cell’s structure and protect the cell’s inner organelles from environmental assaults such as heat and shear stress. Human and other mammalian cells don’t have this exterior wall, leaving them vulnerable to damage or destruction. By creating a cell wall made of biomimetic materials — synthetic materials that mimic biology — researchers can protect human cells for use in vitro cell therapy to treat disease and in bioprinting.

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