Spinning spare parts

May 4, 2012 | Source: Technology Review

Clean crochet: A specialist weaves a blood vessel graft from human threads on a sterile tubular loom (credit: Cytograft)

Cytograft Tissue Engineering has developed a “human textile” process for weaving human threads into blood vessel patches and grafts that a patient’s body would readily accept for wound repair.

The process is faster and could be more cost-effective than other methods of producing biological tissue replacements, which are also not rejected, so they remain in the body.

Basically, researchers grow human skin cells in a culture flask under conditions that encourage the cells to lay down a sheet of what is known as extracellular matrix — a structural material produced by animal cells that makes up our connective tissue.

Slicing the sheets into thin ribbons that can be spooled into threads makes it possible to use automated weaving and braiding machines to create three-dimensional structures that do not require fusing.

The company is also working on a technique in which the cell-produced sheets are processed into particles instead of threads. The biological bits can then be molded together, giving tissue engineers two advantages. Molding the particles together leaves a complex network of channels behind — exactly what tissues engineers will need in order to produce, eventually, something like a liver, pancreas, or kidney.

The particles could also be injected, which could add volume to tissues for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes.