Injectable Tissues Close to Reality

A new study has brought simple injections that can assist in regrowing damaged tissue a step closer to reality. The researchers at UBC Okanagan have created a device that makes encapsulating cells not only faster, but also more effective and cheaper.

While it is not a new idea of injecting different kinds of tissue cells, it is an enticing concept that introducing cells into damaged tissue can supercharge the body’s own ability to repair and regrow an injury. Everything from torn ligaments to broken bones could potentially benefit from this approach. It is even suggested that whole organs could be repaired as the new technology improves.

The challenge is that cells on their own are very delicate and are likely not to survive when injected directly into a person’s body. What the team discovered is that to ensure the survival of the cells, they must be encased in a coating that will protect them from physical damage and also from the body’s immune system.

Previously it has been very difficult to perform that kind of cell encapsulation which until the current study was very time consuming, costly and involved a wasteful process. The team solved the problem by developing an automated encapsulation device which encases many cells in a microgel by using a specialized blue laser and then purifies them to produce a usable and clean sample in just a few minutes.

The advantage of this system shows that over 95% of the cells survive and the process can very easily be scaled up. Earlier research hampered the efforts due to cost and the lack of availability of mass produced cell encapsulated microgels. The team solved that challenge and their system could provide even tens of thousands of cell encapsulated microgels very rapidly, supercharging this field of bioengineering.

In addition to a system that is quick and efficient, the team also shows the equipment is made up of inexpensive and readily available components. They say that any lab that conducts this type of work could set up a similar system anywhere from just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

The research team is looking at the next step which will be to embed different kinds of stem cells which haven’t been differentiated into specific types of tissues into the microgels alongside hormones or proteins called growth factors. This idea would be to assist the stem cells in transforming into appropriate tissue types once they have been injected.

To view the original scientific study click below.

An integrated microfluidic flow-focusing platform for on-chip fabrication and filtration of cell-laden microgels.