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In Cell Culture, Like Real Estate, the Neighborhood Matters

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Ever since scientists first began growing human cells in lab dishes in 1952, they have focused on improving the chemical soup that feeds the cells and helps regulate their growth. But surfaces also matter, says Laura Kiessling, a professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who observes that living cells are normally in contact with each other and with a structure called the extracellular matrix, not just with the dissolved chemicals in their surroundings.

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