|The use of unconventional materials may help grow tissues and organs for transplant. / Photo by: Dan Race via Shutterstock|
Every day, the number of people requiring an organ transplant grows exponentially due to the prevalence of diseases. Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of organ donors to accommodate the increasing demand. For a research team, the use of unconventional materials may help grow tissues and organs for transplant.
The use of various unconventional materials for creating new tissues and organs was re-imagined by researchers at the University of Massachusetts. Their findings showed that materials like eggshells could be applied as scaffolds for fabricating tissue. They announced the study in The Conversation, an online portal for academics and researchers.
Unorthodox Approach for Growing Tissue in Labs
Labs today have sufficient equipment to grow cells and mature them into tissues, which later will make organs. Biotechnologists, bioengineers, and medical scientists are working hard to make lab-based tissues viable for organ transplants. While their efforts have led to numerous breakthroughs, labs are still far from becoming the main supplier of new organs.
One of the major challenges in growing artificial tissues in labs is how to grow them outside the human body. Cells require specific conditions to multiply and form their respective tissue. If these conditions are not met, the cells may grow substantially slow or may exhibit defects that will make them unsuitable for transplant.
To work around that, scientists use materials and molecules from combined engineering methods to support synthetic tissues grown in labs. However, these molecules are usually based on expensive components and methods, which defeat the purpose of helping those in need.
At the University of Massachusetts, a pair of researchers re-imagined unconventional materials as biomaterials for artificial tissues. These materials were inexpensive and readily available in nearly every setting, which would reduce cost and promote easy adoption. Some of the materials they assessed included eggshells, ice, tofu, and paper. All of them could become an essential part for growing new tissues.
For eggshells, researchers noted that these leftover items could be repurposed in the lab to fit other uses. Eggshells were found to be compatible as scaffolds of artificial cells. Despite being leftovers, eggshells could promote the growth of bone cells and even hasten their hardening process. The reason behind that has been the similarity in minerals. Both bones and eggshells have carbonate, which enabled researchers to use them as templates.
For paper, researchers said that this material could assist in growing cells in labs. Just like eggshells, the paper could become scaffold via origami-inspired engineering. The engineered paper would turn into frames or templates designed for repairing different bones, cartilages, and muscles. Their inexpensive price and biocompatibility could pave the way for better solutions in repairing the musculoskeletal system.
Other biocompatible materials mentioned in the study included ice, plant parts, and tofu. They said that all of these items could improve the functions and the re-growth potential of tissues. Some of them could even aid the transportation of cellular signals and nutrients while others have exhibited certain traits related to particular cellular functions, such as mobility, reproduction, and differentiation.
|Eggshells were found to be compatible as scaffolds of artificial cells. / Photo by: Tridsanu Thopet via Shutterstock|
Why Unorthodox Materials Should be Evaluated
The medical assessment of unconventional materials for bioengineering of cells and tissues is urged due to costing. Many people who require tissue or organ transplant reside in underdeveloped regions. If the biocompatible materials are expensive, more individuals who need a transplant will not be able to avail them, which does not help in solving the global crisis.
In the figure shown by researchers, apple, marine sponge, paper, plant parts, tofu, eggshells, ice, and textiles have been recognized with biocompatibility. They can be studied further in various therapeutic applications like for the skin, bone, heart, muscle, nerve, and blood vessel.
Aside from being biocompatible, unconventional materials can be easily adopted by different research centers in the world. Bioengineers can simply obtain these materials in convenient sources and prep them for laboratory purposes, compared to creating molecules that have exorbitant prices.
This study was published in the journal Trends in Biotechnology, provided by Cell Press.
About Organ Transplant
According to Organ Donor, the organ donation and transplant information center of the US government, about 36,548 transplants were conducted in the US in 2018. Although tens of thousands of transplants were performed, some unfortunate patients could not get the treatment. About 20 people die daily waiting for an eligible donor.
In the US, 95 percent of adults expressed support for organ donation but only 58 percent of them were signed up. And for every 10 minutes that lapses, one person would be added to the never-ending list of people waiting for a transplant.
With regard to the waiting list, over 113,000 candidates for organ transplant were on the US national waiting list, as of January 2019. Among those candidates, nearly 2,000 individuals were children under the age of 18 years while almost 50,000 were people from ethnic minorities. In that list, 41 percent were Caucasian, 28.8 percent African American, 20 percent Hispanic, 8.1 percent Asian, and 2.4 percent composed of American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, and multiracial people.