Biomaterials: Hydrogel fibers make tissue generation efficient

December 19, 2013
Biomaterials: Hydrogel fibers make tissue generation efficient
The potential for restoring a damaged liver to a healthy state (pictured) could improve by incorporating vascular cells into hydrogel fibers used in tissue engineering. Credit: iStock/Thinkstock

Much research has been devoted to generating viable tissues to replace damaged tissues in organs, such as the liver. Incorporating cellular and vascular networks into engineered tissues increases the potential of the biomaterial to integrate successfully with the host body. However, this step, known as prevascularization of constructed tissues, is expensive, complicated and time-consuming.

Now, Andrew Wan, Jackie Y. Ying and co-workers at the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have developed a quick and effective way to generate prevascularized liver and fat tissues using newly designed hydrogel fibers. The hydrogel, which is used at room temperature, acts as a vital source of nutrients for the , allowing them to survive longer as the engineered tissue integrates into the host's body.

"Many tissues in the body, such as the liver, are made up of repeating functional units," explains Wan. "We carefully constructed tissues by embedding cells into individual hydrogel fibers in set repeating patterns, just as they appear in the body. We then built up the fibers into tissue structures. Previous work in this field has lacked this three-dimensional cell patterning."

The researchers incorporated different kinds of cells into individual samples of hydrogel solution. They used samples encapsulating blood vessels or endothelial cells as the basis for building the . The efficiency of hydrogel fiber formation allowed the team to draw cell-filled fibers from the gel samples quickly and easily. Next, they surrounded the fibers containing endothelial cells with patterned with other cell types, such as primary liver cells. This method ensured a more natural pattern to the cell constructs than those engineered by other researchers.

"Many cell types have the capacity to self-assemble," states Wan. "Endothelial cells form capillary-like structures that run parallel to the other cells in our engineered tissues."

When Wan, Ying and co-workers implanted the engineered tissues into mice, they found that the in the engineered tissues rapidly connected with the of the host. Consequently, the cells had rapid access to oxygen and nutrients from the blood circulation of the host and could therefore successfully integrate with existing tissue in the body.

"Our method could be used to make three-dimensional tissue models for drug screening, toxicity studies or studying disease mechanisms," explains Ying. "In the long term, the approach could also be used for cell-based therapy to replace lost or damaged . Our future work will be geared towards these applications."

Explore further: Fused polymer-based multi-component fibers provide well-defined domains for cell co-culture in tissue engineering

More information: Leong, M. F., Toh, J. K. C., Du, C., Narayanan, K., Lu, H. F. et al. "Patterned prevascularised tissue constructs by assembly of polyelectrolyte hydrogel fibres." Nature Communications 4, 2353 (2013).

Related Stories

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

New 'self-healing' gel makes electronics more flexible

November 25, 2015

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a first-of-its-kind self-healing gel that repairs and connects electronic circuits, creating opportunities to advance the ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...

Atom-sized craters make a catalyst much more active

November 24, 2015

Bombarding and stretching an important industrial catalyst opens up tiny holes on its surface where atoms can attach and react, greatly increasing its activity as a promoter of chemical reactions, according to a study by ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.