NRL Scientists Develop Technique to Design Living Tissue

6/10/2003 - 39-03r
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A team of scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has fabricated novel three-dimensional tissue using a unique laser transfer process. The scientists design tissue with a computer and subsequently place living cells in these design specified locations using the laser to guide the deposition process.

Dr. Douglas Chrisey, who leads the NRL research team, explains, "At the heart of this technology is the ability to rapidly build engineered tissue constructs cell-by-cell, layer-by-layer, and unit-by-unit in order to simulate or facilitate native structured tissue." The scientists use a CAD/CAM process to design the tissue.

The NRL research team was initially trying to build electronic circuits directly from digital blueprints. This process involves a system that scans a pulsed laser across a ribbon that contains electronic ink, transferring the material onto a plastic foundation. The NRL team modified this technique, called matrix-assisted pulsed-laser evaporation, to deposit the cells. Applying the same tool, Dr. Chrisey and his team decided to use the laser on polymer-gel ribbons that contained cell fragments and bacteria. They soon realized that they could get successive layers of cells to grow on the strips of polymer gel.

The scientists have already transferred human bone-forming cells, mouse muscle cells, and rat heart cells (available from various supply houses) onto polymer gels. Some day in the distant future, this process might be used for instant wound repair. It could be possible for any tissue - skin, muscle, nerve, or bone - to be instantly restored. But in the near term, this laser process might be used to create chips that could be tiny sensors for toxins in the environment or to create miniature bioreactors used in making pharmaceutical chemicals.

These laser-deposited cells began to show muscle-like growth after just 24 hours.

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About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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