Skip to content

Synthetic biology used to develop cornea capable of self-assembly.

Organ donation is where a live or deceased person consents to having one or more of their organs removed and transplanted to another person. Unfortunately, there’s currently an organ shortage crisis worldwide, and according to the US Department of Health, as of February 2018, there are 115,085 people waiting for life-saving organ transplants in the US.  Therefore, much interest has been placed on made-to-order organs, particularly those developed via synthetic biology with the ability to self-assemble.  Now, a study from researchers at the University of Newcastle utilizes synthetic biology to develop a gel containing live corneal cells possessing the capability to self-assemble to form into cornea-like structures. The team states their new method could be tweaked to produce other human organs, potentially helping millions more people in need of transplants.  The study is published in the journal Advanced Functional Material.

Previous studies show for every person in the world who receives a cornea transplant, there are sixty-nine others who still need one, leaving roughly 12.5 million people with limited sight due to a lack of donors.  Over the past decade, scientists have been testing artificial corneas made from synthetic collagen gel, however, one of the difficulties is in getting the gel to self-assemble into the curved shape to fit the eye and focus light so the patient can regain their sight.  The current study designs a gel mixture to contract by different amounts in different places to adopt a specific corneal shape.

The current study utilizes mixes collagen and live corneal cells that mimic microscopic engines to exert a contracting pull force to shape a one-inch-wide block of tissue into a corneal structure.  Results show a circular shape divided into two rings is developed, with peptide amphiphiles located either in the outer ring or in the center. Data findings show in both cases, one part contracted more than the other and this difference caused the gel to progressively curve over five days until it reached the correct corneal-like shape.

Results show the properties of self‐assembling gels are more similar to those of the native tissue, representing a significant improvement over planar 3D scaffolds.  The group states it may be possible to use this technique to manufacture other artificial tissues from organs naturally consisting of cells with the ability to contract, such as heart and blood vessel tissues.  They go on to explain the contracting cells must be combined with the bio-material of interest, with the peptide amphiphiles positioned within well-defined areas of the bio-material to enable it to assemble into the desired shape.

The team surmises they have produced an artificial self-assembling corneal-like structure without the use of planar scaffolds.  For the future, the researchers state it may be possible to take this technology one step further to printing more complex biological structures or organs with can arrange themselves without the need of scaffolds.

Source: The Conversation

Get Healthinnovations delivered to your inbox:

Healthinnovations View All

Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.

Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio, BioPortfolio.com, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.

Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.

Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.

An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.