Feature stories | Technology & innovation

Siberians make cellular scaffolding to help organs grow, and grow fast

26 Jul '17
Scientists at Tomsk Polytechnic (TPU) in Siberia have come up with a novel method of modifying polylactic-based biodegradable polymeric scaffolds, some sort of matrices that form the basis new organs and tissues would grow upon. The Siberian tissue-engineered scaffolds are said to interact well with the human immunity cells, accelerate cell structures growth, and even help stimulate new blood vessel proliferation.

“If you want to develop an artificial organ or transplant fragment, you’ll have to grow it somewhere first. You might choose an ordinary Petri dish; but cells will only inhabit it in a flat layer, and no 3D structure—meaning a real tissue or organ—will emerge. It’s the contact inhibition effect that is responsible; any benign cell stops moving and multiplying as soon as it comes in contact with another cell—with the exception of cancerous ones that devastate everything they encounter. “Good” cells never meddle in other “good” cells’ affairs. So—how could you grow a new organ then? That’s where scaffolds come in handy. These matrices provide actual construction scaffolding to build future “houses” made of cells,” explained Ksenia Stankevich, an engineer at TPU’s experimental physics chair and one of the developers of the new technology.

So, these biological scaffolds could be likened to multi-storey buildings with cells inhabiting each floor. They live there peacefully and multiply, developing new tissues.

A research team led by TPU associate professor Sergei Tverdokhlebov has spent years trying to create and improve such “cell dwellings.”

In the most recent scaffold improvement effort, the scientists suggested that scaffold surfaces be treated with atmospheric pressure plasma followed by hyaluronic acid.

“The surface of a polymeric material must be continually exposed to contact with bodily fluids to ensure good cells-surface adhesion and prevent cells from simply rolling over and off the surface. Low-temperature plasma treatment is no news to the science; but an obvious downside here is the method’s inability to bar the hydrophobic effect from re-manifesting itself and making the material unwettable. We have succeeded in addressing the snag, putting hyaluronic acid on scaffolds after low-temperature plasma treatment,” said Valeria Kudryavtseva, a postgraduate at TPU’s Institute of Physics and Technology.

At stage two of the project, the team looked into the body’s immune response to the new material. To do so, the researchers extracted primary cells from donors’ blood and watched them interact with scaffolds’ improved surface. At the end of the day, the scientists knew the new material could facilitate cell growth.

The coating material is said to be more biocompatible with the human body than the competition, and displays anti-inflammatory properties. Using it makes cells grow faster.

“To develop the coatings, we also drew upon prior discoveries and used cells from the human fetus’ umbilical cord to set off the generation of new blood vessels. It is critical for implanted tissue to have vessels grown through it profusely to make sure there’s ample blood supply and cells don’t die away. Our material can address this problem,” Ms. Stankevich said.

The TPU team says their novel material could be used not only for transplantation but also in regenerative medicine to treat burns, ulcers and other skin problems. The study is expected to pave the way for developing bioengineered solutions for personalized medicine.
Oleg Kouzbit, managing editor: “I’m glad you join us here and take The Bridge walk for Marchmont’s weekly review of the Russian regions’ innovative present and future. Stay close and you’ll find out more of how Russia is bridging the existing gap between its researchers and businesses.”
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Locations: Tomsk

Tags: tissue (8) / Tomsk Polytechnic (76) / organs (3) / Ksenia Stankevich (1) / scaffolds (0) / polylactic acid (0) / hyaluronic acid (0) /

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