What Can Be Achieved With Artificial Tissue?

Scientists are presently working towards artificial cells, and here we have an example of work on an artificial extracellular matrix. Building an appropriately complex and supporting scaffold - a matrix - for tissue engineered organs is a challenge presently facing researchers. So what could be done with the ability to turn out extracellular matrix to order? "The tissue in our bodies has a combination of traits that are very hard to recreate in synthetic materials: It is both soft and very tough. A team [has] now developed a novel, highly porous, sponge-like material whose mechanical properties closely resemble those of biological soft tissues. ... it consists of a robust network of DNA strands and carbon nanotubes. ... Different protein morphologies in the extracellular matrix produce tissue with a wide range of stiffness. Implants and scaffolding for tissue growth require porous, soft materials - which are usually very fragile. Because many biological tissues are regularly subjected to intense mechanical loads, it is also important that the implant material have comparable elasticity in order to avoid inflammation. At the same time, the material must be very strong and resilient, or it may give out. The new concept uses DNA strands as a matrix; the strands completely 'wrap' the scaffold-forming carbon nanotubes ... This results in materials that are as elastic as the softest natural tissues while simultaneously deriving great strength from the robust DNA links."

Link: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/26737/home/press/200919press.html

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