Dramatic New Breakthrough in Medical Science Achieved by Scientists at MIT

by Annie Shao, age 17

Building artificial organs from individual cells is a difficult task for scientists. However, medical may soon successfully meet this medical challenge using a new process: micromasonry.   

The main problem with building tissues and organs is keeping the cells intact in the new, complex structures. Once the original extracellular matrix that binds them together is removed, individual cells are difficult to reassemble. Micromasonry fixes this problem.

Developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this method of tissue engineering involves enclosing living cells into cubes of a liquid polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG) to ease the assembling. Encased in a solid cube of PEG, the cells become like Lego blocks and stack well together.   

The process is simple and does not require specialized equipment. Once the cells are immersed in PEG, the liquid polymer is lit up, turning it into a gel. The gel blocks are then arranged onto silicon-based polymer templates. An additional layer of PEG is applied like plaster to keep the cubes in place, and is illuminated again to solidify it. The template is now removed and the cells retain the molded shape.   

MIT researchers successfully constructed artificial capillaries, or microscopic blood vessels, with micromasonry. They hope to be able to create viable artificial livers and repair cardiac tissue by using this new method.   

Micromasonry may have good implications for organ transplants. Scientists hope to be able to use different cell types as molds— maybe even a patient’s own cells— and find complimentary polymers. If successful, this process could drastically decrease the waiting period for receiving an organ transplant.  It could make donor organs more readily available.   

Although it is still a relatively new concept, one of the greatest hurdles in medical science— generating tissues and organs— may be cleared by micromasonry.

[Source: MIT News]

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