Cotton candy creation is the original inspiration behind the making of artificial organs.
Cotton candy machines are the ideal mechanical agents to look to when we think of making artificial organs such as livers, kidneys and even bones. A researcher has been experimenting with cotton candy machines in the quest for creating artificial organs.
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These technological contraptions spin out thin threads that coalesce and thus create a network that may be used biologically one fine day in the future. The threads are similar to the dense bundles of capillaries. These capillaries deliver oxygen and nutrients and carry away waste products.
The network of fibers may be built to such an extent that organs are created. The study was published online on February 4th in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials. Templates produced via this procedure were capable of sustaining the life function for a week.
"Some people in the field think this approach is a little crazy," said Bellan, "But now we've shown we can use this simple technique to make microfluidic networks that mimic the three-dimensional capillary system in the human body in a cell-friendly fashion. Generally, it's not that difficult to make two-dimensional networks, but adding the third dimension is much harder; with this approach, we can make our system as three-dimensional as we like."
This development holds promise for future times. There are those who cannot believe their ears when they are told that organ creation is really as simple as a cotton candy machine that uses living biological tissues and cells.
But seeing is believing. The cotton candy machines are in fact capable of making microfluidic networks that bear an uncanny resemblance to real organs.
This work is easily accomplished in two dimensions but it is the 3D formation of organs that is the crux of the matter. The materials that are being used currently look somewhat like hair gel.
They are actually hydrogels and they form the scaffoldings in which the cells can be arranged. Hydrogels are an ideal material since they closely mimic the networks in real life organs.
Unlike polymers which are solids, these semi-liquid materials are better at composing the organs. There is one problem though.
Oxygen, nutrients and wastes can only travel a certain distance through the medium. The next big challenge is to build a network that allows materials to flow through them with ease and freedom of movement.
There are two procedures that may be followed: bottom-up and top-down. In the former, researchers culture cells in a thin layer of gel. The cells and capillaries begin to grow.
It may be simple but there is a hitch. It can take too long for the cells to multiply so they start dying off. As for the latter process, it involves making threads as thin as 55 microns.
The cotton candy approach dates back to the college days of the researcher who is currently working on his brainchild. The tinkering so far has led to many irresolvable dilemmas.
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The threads that form the networks must be micromanaged and then the whole procedure carries elements of extreme complexity. The goal is the formation of a toolbox that will allow scientists to create organs using a modified cotton candy machine.