August 1, 2012
Precise Tissue Engineering Tool Created By University Of Toronto Researchers
|Image Source: Lian Leng|
|University of Toronto researchers have invented a new tissue engineering tool that makes uniform, layered, large patches of engineered tissue that could one day be used as grafts for burn victims and a myriad of other applications.|
Along with graduate students from their labs—Lian Leng, Boyang Zhang, and Arianna McAllister— Associate Professor Axel Guenther of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, cross-appointed to the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), and Associate Professor Milica Radisic, core professor at IBBME and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, worked on the project.
"There's a lot of interest in soft materials, particularly biomaterials," explains Guenther of the materials that help create functional tissue cultures, "but until now no one has demonstrated a simple and scalable one-step process to go from microns to centimeters."
Unique to this new approach to tissue engineering, however, and unlike more typical methods for tissue engineering (for instance, scaffolding, the seeding of cells onto an artificial structure capable of supporting three-dimensional tissue formation) cells planted onto the mosaic hydrogel sheets are precisely incorporated into the mosaic hydrogel sheet just at the time it's being created—generating the perfect conditions for cells to grow.
The placement of the cells is so precise, in fact, that scientists can spell words (such as "Toronto," shown above) and can precisely mimic the natural placement of cells in living tissues. And by collecting these sheets around a drum, the machine is able to collect layers of cells in thicknesses made to measure: in essence, three dimensional, functional tissues.
And in tissue engineering, cell placement is everything: something that the new invention delivers. "The cells are able to stretch and connect with each other, which is very important for ultimately obtaining functional tissues," Guenther states.
The resulting tissues, cites Lian Leng, lead author on the project and a 3rd year PhD Candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, are remarkably stable. "In this case, when we put the cells in the right places we create cellular organization quite naturally."
"My laboratory is currently pursuing different applications of the technology—different tissues," says Guenther, talking about the next steps for the research. The device may provide the means to create three-dimensional cell cultures for the development of therapeutic drugs, for instance. “But one of my dreams is to one day engineer a vascularized leaf – perhaps a maple leaf," he jokes.
SOURCE Univerity of Toronto
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Tags: biomaterials, biotechnology, cell structures, health, Lian Leng, MaRS Innovations, medicine, regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, University of Toronto
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