Researchers Create Bowls, Coils, Ripples Of Living Tissue
Living tissue in a variety of shapes can be created programmatically by UC San Francisco researchers.
(Shapes made of living tissue)
This image shows the shapes made of living tissue, engineered by the researchers. By patterning mechanically active mouse or human cells to thin layers of extracellular fibers, the researchers could create bowls, coils, and ripple shapes. (credit: Alex Hughes)
Many of the complex folded and curved shapes that form human tissues can now be programmatically recreated with very simple instructions, UC San Francisco (UCSF) bioengineers report December 28 in the journal Developmental Cell.
The researchers used 3D cell-patterning to shape active mouse and human embryonic cells into thin layers of extracellular matrix fibers (a structural material produced by human cells that make up our connective tissue) to create bowls, coils, and ripples out of living tissue. A web of these fibers folded themselves up in predictable ways, mimicking developmental processes in natural human body tissue.
The UCSF lab approach instead used a precision 3D cell-patterning technology called DNA-programmed assembly of cells (DPAC). It provides an initial template (pattern) for tissue to later develop in vitro (in a test tube or other lab container). That tissue automatically folds itself into complex shapes in ways that replicate how in vivo (body) tissues normally assemble themselves hierarchically during development.
“This approach could significantly improve the structure, maturation, and vascularization” of tissues in organoids” (miniature models of human parts, such as brains, used for drug testing) “and 3D-printed tissues in general,” the researchers note in the paper.
Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke told us (and me, since I read this book when it came out) about this idea in 1972, in his still-current novel Rendezvous With Rama; he used a much more compact word - biot - to describe them:
...now life, with all its infinite possibilities, had come to Rama. If the biological robots were not living creatures, they were certainly very good imitations.
No one knew who invented the word "biot"; it seemed to come into instant use, by a kind of spontaneous generation.
(Read more about Clarke's biots)
The term was used to describe creations like the spider tripod robots that Rama seemed to spontaneously generate for self-cleaning whenever an energy source (a sun) became available.
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