Team:MIT mammalian


Revision as of 21:14, 26 October 2010 by Ldeming (Talk | contribs)

cellular touchpad

Tissue engineering is an emerging field, a creation of 21st century biology. A lot of the groundwork has been laid for the development of artificial organs; we’ve seen lab-grown bladders, heart cells beating in unison in a petri dish, and even human ear mimetics. So far, these organs have been created by populating artificial scaffolds with appropriately differentiated cells; the process has been controlled by the injection of cells into the right places at the right times. Here, we present a new take on manufacturing organs in vitro; an approach that requires cells to sense external stimuli and remodel the growing tissue accordingly.

We chose to explore in vitro bone tissue formation; however, the methods we develop here can be applied generally to the development of any artificial organ. Our specific goal is to create cells that sense mechanical stress, subcellularly integrate this information, and make a decision to differentiate into bone-producing osteoblast cells based on the external signals. These cells will be capable of ‘intelligent’ tissue formation; that is, when seeded onto a scaffold, they will create a bone fragment which is more dense in regions of higher mechanical stress.

The applications for cells with this capacity – to create tissue optimized to support a specific mechanical environment – are widespread. There’s the immediately obvious advantage of creating specialized bone grafts; in a nation that spends an average of $20 billion a year on treatments of bone-related fractures and replacements, increasing the efficiency of the bone surgeries would have a wide-ranging impact. But there’s another, more intriguing, application; a model system like this would allow us to directly study tissue development and organogenesis. By mimicking in vitro the natural processes of tissue remodeling, we can start to understand the challenges inherent in cell-dependent tissue structuring, and perhaps get a deeper grasp on the in vivo pathways involved.