'Origami organs': new regenerative flexible biomaterials


By Australian Hospital + Healthcare Bulletin Staff
Friday, 11 August, 2017


Origami organs

A new range of bioactive ‘tissue papers’ made of materials derived from organs are so thin and flexible they can even fold into an origami bird. The new biomaterials can potentially be used to support natural hormone production in young cancer patients and aid wound healing.

The tissue papers are made from structural proteins excreted by cells that give organs their form and structure. The proteins are combined with a polymer to make the material pliable.

In the study, published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, individual types of tissue papers were made from ovarian, uterine, kidney, liver, muscle or heart proteins obtained by processing pig and cow organs. Each tissue paper had specific cellular properties of the organ from which it was made.

“This new class of biomaterials has potential for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine as well as drug discovery and therapeutics,” co-author Ramille Shah said. “It’s versatile and surgically friendly.”

Shah is Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at McCormick School of Engineering.

For wound healing, Shah thinks the tissue paper could provide support and the cell signalling needed to help regenerate tissue to prevent scarring and accelerate healing.

The tissue papers are made from natural organs or tissues. The cells are removed, leaving the natural structural proteins — known as the extracellular matrix — that then are dried into a powder and processed into the tissue papers. Each type of paper contains residual biochemicals and protein architecture from its original organ that can stimulate cells to behave in a certain way.

“This could provide another option to restore normal hormone function to young cancer patients who often lose their hormone function as a result of chemotherapy and radiation,”  reproductive scientist Teresa Woodruff, a study co-author, said.

A strip of the ovarian paper with the follicles could be implanted under the arm to restore hormone production for cancer patients or even women in menopause.

In addition, the tissue paper made from various organs separately supported the growth of adult human stem cells. Scientists placed human bone marrow stem cells on the tissue paper, and all the stem cells attached and multiplied over four weeks.

"That’s a good sign that the paper supports human stem cell growth,” said first author Adam Jakus, who developed the tissue papers. “It’s an indicator that once we start using tissue paper in animal models it will be biocompatible.”

The tissue papers feel and behave much like standard office paper when they are dry, Jakus said. Jakus simply stacks them in a refrigerator or a freezer. He even playfully folded them into an origami bird.

“Even when wet, the tissue papers maintain their mechanical properties and can be rolled, folded, cut and sutured to tissue,” he said.

An accidental spill sparked invention

An accidental spill of 3D printing ink in Shah’s lab by Jakus sparked the invention of the tissue paper. Jakus was attempting to make a 3D-printable ovary ink similar to the other 3D-printable materials he previously developed to repair and regenerate bone, muscle and nerve tissue. When he went to wipe up the spill, the ovary ink had already formed a dry sheet.

“When I tried to pick it up, it felt strong,” Jakus said. “I knew right then I could make large amounts of bioactive materials from other organs. The light bulb went on in my head. I could do this with other organs.

“It is really amazing that meat and animal by-products like a kidney, liver, heart and uterus can be transformed into paper-like biomaterials that can potentially regenerate and restore function to tissues and organs,” Jakus said. “I’ll never look at a steak or pork tenderloin the same way again.”

Image credit: © Northwestern Medicine

Originally published here.

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