Using computers to design proteins allows researchers to make tunable hydrogels that can form both inside and outside of cells Filed Under: NewsResearch New research led by the University of Washington demonstrates a new class of hydrogels that can form not just outside cells, but also inside of them. Hydrogels are made up of protein building blocks linked together. Shown here are images of two cells. The cell on the right contains hydrogels decorated with Green Fluorescent Protein (green blobs), whereas the cell on the left does not because it is missing one of the hydrogel building blocks (green is everywhere in the cell).Mout et al./PNAS When researchers want to study how COVID makes us sick, or what diseases such as Alzheimer’s do to the body, one approach is to look at what’s happening inside individual cells. Researchers sometimes grow the cells in a 3D scaffold called a “hydrogel.” This network of proteins or molecules mimics the environment the cells would live in inside the body. New research led by the University of Washington demonstrates a new class of hydrogels that can form not just outside cells, but also inside of them. The team created these hydrogels from protein building blocks designed using a computer to form a specific structure. These hydrogels exhibited similar mechanical properties both inside and outside of cells, providing researchers with a new tool to group proteins together inside of cells. Read more here.