Macromolecular crowding (MMC) for tissue engineering is an approach proposed by researchers at the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) as a means to engineer tissues faster for transplantation. Research describing methods to speed up production of extracellular matrix (ECM) by using polydispersed macromolecules has recently been published in the most recent issue of Advanced Materials. With an impact factor of 14.829, Advanced Materials is top among all materials science journals for 2012.
Injecting cells to treat injured or degenerated tissues can be used to create tissue-specific ECM which avoids the shortfalls of man-made devices. Scaffolds have been used to help control the retention and distribution of transplanted cells, but their presence hinders tissue remodelling and function. Techniques such as scaffold-free cell-sheet tissue engineering (CSTE) and tissue engineering by self-assembly (TESA) have been developed which do not require the stabilisation of a scaffold. Despite the promising outcomes for various tissue types, considerable time, up to 196 days, is required for the cells to create ECM once they are transplanted and this often results in loss of cell function.
Abhigyan Satyam, PhD student at the NFB at NUI Galway, is investigating MMC to increase cellular activities to create ECM-rich tissue equivalents faster. When cells are in the body they are in a crowded space which makes them synthesise collagen quickly. When cells are placed in a less dense population area, such as culture conditions in a lab, collagen production is very slow. Abhigyan’s research, supervised by NUI Galway’s Dr Dimitrios Zeuglolis’s, involves adding inert polydispersed macromolecules into cell cultures to increase the density of the growth area which will, in turn, increase ECM production.
The results presented in Advanced Materials describe this innovative strategy, and how an ECM-rich cell sheet was created in just 48 hours without compromising cell function. This platform technology will reduce cultivating time of tissue engineered constructs which will ultimately save money. Among a number of possible applications, the grown tissues can be utilised to replace damaged skin, bones, corneas and tendons.
To read the publication visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201304428/full.