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On Nanoscale-Featured Scaffolds in Regenerative Medicine

An interesting piece on the use of scaffold materials to guide regrowth in regenerative medicine:

A research group [is] weaving nanoscale nerve-guide scaffolds from a mixture of natural chitosan and an industrial polyester polymer, using a process called electrospinning. The raw materials are dissolved in solvents and placed into a syringe, the needle of which is attached to a high-voltage supply. Charged liquid is then expelled from the needle towards an earthed collector plate. Like a spark between a cloud and a lightning conductor, the liquid stretches out to the collector, and the molecules within it form into a solid but incredibly thin thread.

The resulting minuscule fibres accrete into a dense mesh whose texture is similar to that of the body's own connective tissue. In laboratory tests, prototype nerve guides built from this nanomaterial sustained the growth of new neural cells, produced no immune reactions and were much stronger and more flexible than commercial collagen tubes. By adjusting the electrospinning process, the orientation of the nanofibres can be controlled to build scaffolds suitable for cultivating cells that need precise alignment, such as elongated muscle fibres and heart tissue.

Link: http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21573056-biomedical-technology-tiny-forms-scaffolding-combining-biological-and-synthetic

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