Synthetic Extracellular Matrix For Growing Body Parts - New Technology

The work of 3DM Inc. cofounders Shuguang Zhang and Carlos Semino is described along with the company's PuraMatrixTM peptide gels in a feature article in the August 21 issue of Nature entitled "Cell Culture: Biology's new dimension". The article highlights the growing trend in 3-D cell culture, moving cell biology research away from flat 2-D cell cultures in traditional petri dishes. Some of the pioneers in 3-D cell culture lend their observations that 3-D microenvironments can radically alter cell behavior, enabling cells to mimic in vivo responses to drug targets and medical therapies much more accurately.

Given the growing body of literature, drug discovery efforts at major pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are beginning to adopt 3-D culture techniques in their cell-based assays, especially in the context of High Content Screening. Using products like PuraMatrixTM, in order to create synthetic extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffolds and tuned 3-D microenvironments, has proven to yield better data while also reducing the number of animals used for expensive in vivo testing. The National Cancer Institute's US$40 million new program on the cellular micro-environment will spur research and adoption of 3-D culture techniques and products in both academia and industry.

3DM Inc. is commercializing the patented self-assembling peptide scaffold technology exclusively licensed from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for cell culture, drug discovery, bioproduction, and other applications across the life and medical sciences. The hydrogels are composed of short strand of standard amino acids and 99.5% water, which then self-assemble into very fine fibers resembling a bare ECM. Researchers in the fields of cancer biology, stem cell biology, and tissue engineering have been the first to realize that ECM and a tuned 3-D microenvironment are critical for the proper understanding required for drug discovery, cell biology, and cell therapy development.

"We are pleased Nature chose to highlight our cofounders and their results with hepatocyte differentiation in PuraMatrixTM Synthetic ECM," said Zen Chu, President of 3DM Inc. "Not only does it recognize their pioneering work since the early 1990's, but it also underscores the trend towards 3-D cell culture, in which our PuraMatrixTM line of self-assembling synthetic ECMs is already playing a major role. We strongly agree with former NIH and Novartis executive Dr. Mihael Polymeropoulos's prediction in the article that those using 2-D techniques in an attempt to derive relevant cell biology data will be hard-pressed to get funding in the coming decade."

Until recently, 3-D cell culture has required either animal-derived materials, with their inherent reproducibility and cell signaling issues, or much larger synthetic scaffolds, which fail to approximate the physical nanometer-scale and chemical attributes of native ECM. PuraMatrix's nanometer-sized fibers, very difficult and expensive to create without 3DM's patented molecular self-assembly, provides a scaffold encapsulating cells in 3 dimensions and allowing defined cell culture conditions, cell migration, nutrient diffusion, and cell harvesting. For the first time, the cell biology and drug discovery communities now have a biocompatible bare ECM which can be combined with relevant proteins and growth factors to more closely resemble the in vivo milieu, and which is forward compatible with cGMP requirements for cell therapy, medical device and bioproduction applications. The PuraMatrixTM gels have undergone extensive in vivo toxicology safety testing.

Posted 21st August 2003

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