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34. Engineering Tissue for Transplants

Stroock and Bonassar

(l.) Abraham Stroock (r.) Lawrence Bonassar

Abraham D. Stroock, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Lawrence J. Bonassar, Biomedical Engineering, and their research team developed a microvascular system that can nourish growing tissues, such as synthetically engineered muscle or cartilage needed for transplants. The researchers engineered within a water-based gel tiny channels that mimic a vascular system at the cellular scale and can supply oxygen and essential nutrients to feed individual cells. The gel scaffold can hold tens of millions of living cells per milliliter in a 3-D arrangement, such as the shape of a knee meniscus, to create a template for the forming tissue. One challenge in building engineered tissues is feeding the core of the tissue during culture. By embedding this simulated microvascular system, researchers can control distributions of fluid with oxygen, sugar, and proteins over both time and space within the developing tissue, allowing the biochemical environment of the cells to be fine-tuned while the tissue grows. The tissue may need to develop into bone on one side and cartilage on the other: now scientists can supply the right nutrients and proteins to certain parts of the growing tissue to ensure the intended outcome. Theoretically, the scaffold system could accommodate many kinds of tissue. Researchers believe the technology offers the potential of growing implants from the patient’s own cells to replace damaged or diseased tissue. Some of the biological challenges include finding a source of cells that can be harvested from a patient and grown without changing the cellt’s characteristics. As new tools develop, researchers hope to use these engineered tissues in nonclinical applications—perhaps as replacements for laboratory animals in drug and chemical testing.

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