Patterning Cells on Implants: The Future?

Sound waves and droplets…such is the process of a new method for printing human cells onto surfaces in defined patterns. The authors, researchers from Michigan, hope that this work will advance research on tissue engineering and regeneration.

“Cell printing is one of the breakthrough technologies that will make the application of stem cells for tissue engineering feasible,” says John Jansen, D.D.S., Ph.D., Methods Co-Editor-in-Chief and Professor and Chairman, Department of Biomaterials, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, The Netherlands, in the March 28, 2012 news release.

Yu Fang and colleagues at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, combined two microscale techniques to dispense and position cells in a variety of patterns. They then demonstrated the ability to use these 3-dimensional cell systems to monitor cell signaling events known to have a role in the growth, proliferation, and metastasis of cancer cells. The authors describe the use of sound waves to deliver microdroplets of cells and polymer-based phase separation to control cell placement in the article “Rapid Generation of Multiplexed Cell Co-Cultures Using Acoustic Droplet Ejection Followed by Aqueous Two-phase Exclusion Patterning.”

John Frampton, Ph.D., co-first author, told OTW,

“We had two main goals, or milestones, for this project. The first milestone was demonstrating that we could use the forces from ultrasound waves to eject droplets of a viscous liquid (dextran) from a standing pool. The second milestone was to demonstrate that cells incorporated into these droplets remained alive and were able to be patterned in the desired configurations with other cells.

Orthopedists may find this technology of interest because it allows patterning of more than one type of cell on surfaces that may assume many different shapes or sizes. We think that this technology, or other technologies like it, could one day be used to pattern cells on implantable materials, which could potentially improve functional integration in patients.”




Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President of Ortho Spine Partners and Partner for The De Angelis Group. He also serves as Co-Founder and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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