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Posted: Feb 02, 2011
Fresh technology for new cell creation
(Nanowerk News) Severe injuries from fire result in over 320,000 deaths each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. Experts believe that most of these deaths could be avoided with surgery. But surgical intervention becomes complicated when there isn't enough skin left to graft on the most damaged part of the burn victim's body. New skin must be grown from the patient's own skin cells, a lengthy process that could lead to dehydration and infection. Scientists discovered that polymeric material, which is renowned for its extensive range of properties and found in plastics, biopolymers and proteins, can be used to grow and multiply human cells but with inefficient results.
Enter the MODPLEUV project, which brought together Austrian, Czech and Polish researchers to successfully develop a novel yet easy way to create nano-structured materials that would facilitate human cell development. MODPLEUV is supported by EUREKA, the European platform for research and development.
'About 10 years ago, scientists discovered the important influence that nanostructures had on the way a line of cells would develop,' explained Professor Johannes Heitz from the University of Linz, the coordinator of MODPOLEUV. 'It was the beginning of an entire new scientific field, somewhere between medicine and nanotechnology.'
The Poland-based Military University of Technology of Warsaw led the development of the new laser-brand technology, called EUV (extreme ultraviolet), which was to create nano-structured polymer surfaces. REFLEX of the Czech Republic developed a mirror that formed a beam of EUV light, directed on a surface that enables new polymeric materials to be created.
Thanks to this innovative technique, researchers can ensure a very high degree of precision, from 10 to 20 nanometres. The best traditional techniques can give is a precision level of 100 nanometres.
'One of the newest theories in the field of cell growing is that the smaller the structure, the wider the possibilities to manipulate the cells,' Professor Heitz said. A major plus with the EUV technique is that the material's structure is conserved. Conventional methods usually fail in this aspect.
'A regular structure is essential if the material is to be used for the purpose of growing human cells,' explained Professor Henryk Fiederowicz from the Military University of Technology.
It should be noted that EUV-generated nanostructures can impact the behaviour of organic cells. Growing other types of cells can be improved and accelerated depending on the type of polymer surface used, according to the team. What material is used to grow human stem cells will determine how cells will transform into another human cell type. 'Using one type of polymer material or another will help you grow different types of muscle, nerves, cells adapted to a human heart, bone or any other part of the human body,' Professor Heitz said.
The partners said this new technique can be applied in many different fields including biotechnology, microelectronics and integrated optics. While the cell-growing technology is still in a testing phase, the team says the results are 'very encouraging so far.'