MIT team finds efficient cell fusion method

A team of scientists at MIT has come up with a new and much more efficient process to pair cells in the lab. Current methods used to fuse cells generally work about 10 percent of the time. But the team was able to increase the success rate to 50 percent by designing new cell-capturing cups that automatically pair up different types of cells for fusion.

Cell fusion is used to reprogram cells as well as study cell interactions. The National Institutes of Health and NASA funded the study, which was led by Joel Voldman, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Rudolf Jaenisch, professor of biology and a member of the Whitehead Institute. Two post docs, Alison Skelley and Oktay Kirak, spearheaded the work.

By developing cups that pair different types of cells--such as A and B--the researchers were able to create a much more effective approach to this branch of bioresearch. Alternative flows of A and B cells are used to pair cells in a tiny cup, which is then hit with an electric jolt that fuses cell membranes.

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