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Posted: January 11, 2008
(Nanowerk News) The design of the human body is an excellent example of bioengineering, and this means engineers and chemists are able to apply their technical knowledge to the body. Suwan Jayasinghe, at University College London, is collaborating with other experts to apply the principles of ink-jet technology to create a viable method of ‘printing’ living cells.
His own experience of his father’s illness urged him to find a way to address a biological issue with an engineering solution. If blood vessels in the body become damaged, his solution is to engineer replacement tubes to take over.
The process is described as pressure assisted spinning. Three needles nested inside one another individually deliver cells, a viscous polymer, and pressurised air, to create a specific structure. ‘Pressure assisted spinning,’ explains Jayasinghe, ‘is a technique to draw a fibre containing cells inside, much like a hose-pipe. Rather than water flowing through it you have cells and cell media.’
Using this method of spraying cells and encapsulating cells within the structure, Jayasinghe has demonstrated that the cells survive the process ‘to live happily ever after.’ He wants to bring this work to clinical trial to prove that by using an individual’s own cells, new cells could be manufactured which would be completely biocompatible.
Highly personalised medicine
‘We could pretty much make an entire t-shirt that contains cells within the thread,’ Jayasinghe suggests, ’or an entire body suit itself and using stem cell technology we can make structures that can become cells for any part of the body. For example, if you have a surface wound and you use stem cells, they can become skin cells. If you have a heart attack and you want to remove part of the heart, we could make tissues to replace this, which can become heart cells.’
The next step is to test the grafting of these structures. Jayasinghe expects it will take five to ten years to get a convincing result. He has about 35 collaborations with a wide range of cancer specialists, regenerative medicine specialists and gene therapy researchers.
Jayasinghe finds the UK structure for life sciences, and the possibilities it offers, very exciting. ‘Apply your idea to everything and see how it can be applied in that field,’ he advises, ‘we’re trying to improve personal medicine.’