Using unconventional materials, like ice and eggshells, as scaffolds to grow tissues | 9/18/2019 | Staff
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As the global demand for tissue and organ transplants significantly outstrips supply, tissue engineering might provide a potential solution. But one of the significant challenges in tissue engineering is growing tissue in 3-D, and the scaffolds used to position cells to develop tissue-specific functions are often challenging or prohibitively expensive to develop.

But in a review publishing September 18, 2019 in the journal Trends in Biotechnology, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell explore recent efforts to use everyday materials like ice, paper, and spinach as tissue scaffolds. These unconventional materials, they argue, are more functional, more sustainable, and less expensive, as well as being available around the globe and applicable to many areas of biomedical research.

Tissue - Engineering - Techniques - Optimization - Procedures

"Some of the recent tissue engineering techniques might be quite expensive, and some of them might require long and tedious optimization procedures to generate those three-dimensional scaffolds," says corresponding author Gulden Camci-Unal. "We're actually turning to nature and trying to see what exists and how can we utilize them for tissue regeneration."

The scaffolds used in tissue engineering help position cells in a particular pattern, which in turn allows them to become functional in a tissue-specific manner. However, finding the perfect scaffold that is porous and biocompatible with mechanical strength is not easy. For that reason, scientists are now borrowing ready-made natural materials for a cost-efficient and sustainable approach.

Process - Materials - Tissue - Application

"We're essentially trying to simplify the process and trying to use readily available materials that can fit in the tissue during the application," says Camci-Unal.

For example, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is now hacking into different plants' unique vein systems, such as spinach. Spinach's dense network of veins resembles the vasculature network of the human heart. By washing out the plant cells and leaving the plant wall matrix behind, the...
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