The new scaffold combines carbon nanotubes with cryogel technologyThe newly developed biocomposite scaffold gets together the good tissue regeneration properties of the gelatin, the mechanical stability of the cellulose and carbon nanotubes, which improves the mechanical stability and increases the scaffold’s electrical features. The originality of this work is that researchers applied the cryogel approach technology to obtain the micropore configuration, which consists in freezing the scaffold. The microporous structure is of crucial importance because it will allow the correct nutrient diffusion between cells. During the freezing process, water forms ice crystals inside the structure that once thawed leave empty pores. Another innovative aspect is that here the directionality of freezing was forced from one single axis because skeletal muscle cells need highly aligned morphology to fuse. Skeletal muscle cells form the striated muscle tissue are responsible for the body movement trough the nervous system action. This technique allowed generating skeletal muscle tissue by mimicking its 3D environment in a millimetre range scaffold, with high pore interconnectivity and better mechanical stability than previously used hydrogels-based scaffolds. In this case the electrical properties of the scaffold play a crutial role, as muscle cells are constantly triggered to contract in response to nerve signals electrically transmitted. By the use of carbon nanotubes, this scaffold allows the application of an electric pulse stimulus to enhance tissue development and maturation.
Growing tissues in the laboratory to study cellular responsesTissue engineering is one of the most promising fields for the medicine of the future, and aims to fabricate, repair, and/or replace tissues and organs. It creates, for instance, micrometre sized tissues grown on a scaffold, one of the most important pillars in tissue engineering. In a nutshell, researchers put some cells on a scaffold and let them grow to form a tissue by providing the nutrients needed and applying the mechanical forces that will influence their development. The integration of 3D-functional engineered tissues with microscale biosensors is the basis of the “organs-on-a-chip” technology. It allows, for example, the detection of cellular responses to external stimuli and the monitoring of the quality of the microenvironment (e.g., metabolites, nutrients).
This new process to obtain a scaffold, which combines the anisotropic freezing of the cryogel with carbon nanotubes, will allow the production of muscle tissues at the millimetre scale for several uses, including organ-on-a-chip technology, concludes Ferran Velasco-Mallorquí, first author of the work.The problem is that using the scaffolds available up to date, it was not possible to overcome the micrometre scale mostly due to deficient nutrients diffusion, absence of internal structure needed to align cells and poor mechanical and electric properties, complicating the study of large tissues. The new scaffold developed by the group Dr. Ramón-Azcón, solves the main problems to grow large muscle tissue constructs by improving its electrical properties and microarchitecture pore distribution.
Reference article: New volumetric CNT-doped Gelatin-Cellulose scaffold for skeletal muscle tissue engineering. Velasco-Mallorquí, F., Fernández-Costa, J.M., Neves, L., Ramón-Azcón, J. Nanoscale Adv., 2020, Advance Article. DOI: 10.1039/D0NA00268B Figure: General overview of the study
- Muscle tissue formation process
- Principle of cryogel technique
- Scheme showing the approach to force the directionality of cryogel freezing
- Image of a scaffold