Tissue bioengineering through mechanobiology and robotic micromanipulation

At EPFL, engineers have discovered a way to modeling living organic tissue. How does the morula, a sphere of cells, give rise to tissues with rather fascinating shapes? To this question answered Erik Mailand, PhD student and Selman Sakar, Assistant professor in mechanical engineering at EPFL. By means of mechanobiology and some micromanipulation, they decided to use tissues with morphologies that have a long duration to achieve this.

According to them, the answer to this question lies in the mechanics of embryonic tissues. Fabrics that describe a behavior that is both fluid and solid in proportion to the forces acting on them. Although there are manufacturing methods that summarize the structure of these tissues momentarily, the morphologies are unstable.

Moreover, the discovery of these two engineers was recently published in two separate journals in Advanced Materials. According to some rumors, this would be a major breakthrough in the medical sector and that, thanks to the technological revolution.

The first founding experiences of tissue bioengineering

From bio-engineers maturely studied the animal tissues in order to build replicas for regenerative medicine. They carried out works of robotic micromanipulation to find out how cells respond to forces in a fibrous matrix. After that, they made a magnetic microactuator which is the size of a remote-controlled cell capable of being actuated within living tissue.

“This platform allows us to discover the loading conditions that would modify the organization of the cells. These experiences are also important for understanding the onset of diseases such as fibrosis and cancer ”

Sakar, one of the engineers.

In order to quantify the mechanical stresses generated by the microactuator, they designed a digital replica of the experimental system.

Epithelial leaves, the key element of the microactuator

These experiments enabled engineers to focus their research on controlling surface stresses. It should be noted that epithelial cells are an assembly of robust tissues that support the structure of embryos and organs. They also serve as a barrier against Pathogens.

Note that epithelia can become quite elastic and viscous by reshaping cell-cell junctions and actively modulating the distribution of local stresses.

“We used microfabrication, computational mechanics, light-sheet microscopy and a novel robotic micromanipulation platform to show that collagen gels coated with a contiguous epithelial sheet can be shaped freely using mechanical forces. “

Mailand, the senior engineer.

This discovery opens up new opportunities for research into tissue bioengineering. Engineers remain hopeful that one day these developed tissues can be used to test therapies or be implanted in a patient.

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