'Spray can' muscles promise artificial heart
Image: Electron microscopy reveals that seven days after electrospraying, cells join in a scaffold and form muscle fibres (yellow).
In a breakthrough for transplant surgery, Swiss researchers have developed a method to spray cells onto a scaffold and grow functioning muscle fibres for artificial hearts.
Culturing functional tissues that can coat artificial hearts and prevent transplant rejection has long-proven a challenge for tissue engineers.
However, Lukas Weidenbacher of Empa's Laboratory for Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles, and colleagues, can now package immature mouse muscle cells in protective gelatin capsules and electro-spray these into the pores of a spun, 3D polymer scaffold.
Once settled, the capsules dissolve within minutes and the cells begin to join and mature to form elongated muscle fibres across the scaffold.
Novel tissue engineering: cells are packaged in protective capsules and sprayed over a spun polymer scaffold in several layers. At their destination, the cells shed the gelatinous coating and develop into mature muscle cells.
Stunning microscopy images reveal how the cells quickly differentiate within the support structure and form muscle fibres.
A network of muscle fibres grows on a spun plastic scaffold; confocal laser scanning microscopy shows muscle fibres (red) and cell nuclei (blue). [Lukas Weidenbacher]
According to Weidenbacher, he and colleagues aim to grow a structure that closely resembles natural muscle tissue.
"As the artificial heart is constantly perfused by the blood circulation, it is important that the surfaces are of a quality that prevents coagulation," he adds.
In the future, Weidenbacher and colleagues intend to clad the implantable artificial heart with cells derived from patients.
In this way, a 'personal' heart could be grown for a patient that will not be rejected by the body's immune system.
Research is published in Acta Biomaterialia.