National Physical Laboratory

Extracellular biophysics Extracellular biophysics

Underpinning standardisation for cell and regenerative therapies by providing accessible metrology for extracellular guidance in cell development.


Underpinning standardisation for cell and regenerative therapies by providing accessible metrology for extracellular guidance in cell development.

The restoration of damaged or ageing tissues is one of the highest priority challenges for healthcare. Barriers to commercialisation include high costs associated with processing and managing personalised tissue treatments (grafts, transplants), current regulatory policies limiting the wide scale use of advanced therapies and the lack of cross-reference assessment of advanced medicinal products in response to extracellular environments. Measurement needs focus on reference interactions of cells in their micro-environments or niches provided by scaffolds, culture and environmental forces.

NPL is developing a combinatory measurement system to monitor cell behaviour in response to extracellular environments, both stimulating and detrimental. This will provide efficient quantitative methodologies to be used as reference tools for optimising advanced medicinal products and devices for controlled cell differentiation in culture or 'smart' niches, and will introduce metrics to assess cellular responses in bacteria-challenged environments.

Atomic force micrograph of an extracellular model matrix and a fluorescence microscopy image

(A) Atomic force micrograph of an extracellular model matrix. (B) Fluorescence microscopy image of human dermal fibroblasts (stained with phalloidin for actin cytoskeleton and DAPI for nucleus).


Objectives include the cross-characterisation of extracellular micro-environments supported by naturally derived and synthetic substrates with varied physicochemical properties, the development of mammalian and bacterial co-culture systems to assess interspecific bacterial and cellular interactions in the model microenvironments supplemented with 'intelligent' antimicrobial responses and quantitative measurements deep inside cell micro-environment systems.

Relevant publications

Arbitrary self-assembly of peptide extracellular microscopic matrices
Bella A, Ray S, Shaw M, Ryadnov MG
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2012, 51, 428-431.

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