Researchers at Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science have recently made great lengths in both engineering and monitoring 3-dimensional tissue.
Experimental hollow fibre bioreactor.
Engineering tissue involves the seeding of appropriate cells into a scaffold to form a bio-construct or matrix. The Oxford team has improved this process by developing a new kind of nutrient circulation and scaffold system for 3-D bulky tissue culture. The scaffold, made from biopolymers or synthetic polymers, has a network of capillaries embedded within it that can service the cells that attach themselves to the scaffold, allowing new tissue to grow. The capillary network is made of semi-permeable membranes whose pore size is sufficiently small to keep cells from leaving the system.
The unique Oxford system employs biodegradable porous membrane capillaries to mimic the blood capillary network in natural tissue. Traditionally, engineered tissue is governed by the diffusion of nutrients from outside the scaffold, but this system employs a system of capillaries that deliver nutrients and remove metabolic waste deep inside. Additionally, the capillary membrane is biodegradable, meaning that as time progresses the pores will widen, allowing more nutrients in and waste out. The Oxford system not only allows tissue of greater density to be grown, but as the tissue becomes bulkier, epithelial cells can be introduced in to the capillaries to promote blood vessel formation. This invention enables the culture of 3-dimensional tissues opening the possibility of growing more complex structures (such as complete organs).
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