Growing new tissues to replace diseased ones in a guided and engineered way is becoming a practical reality. Stem cells are being harnessed to do just that, but often, and particularly with larger pieces of replacement tissue, one needs an appropriate scaffold to grow them on. Researchers at Tufts have been perfecting their use of silk as a platform on which cells can grow and proliferate.
In their latest achievement, the team headed by Professor David L. Kaplan was able to design a way to create silk sponges that dissolve into the body after a predetermined amount of time. This is critically important as different cell types require more or less initial support, while providing unnecessary support hinders the natural growth of cells where the man-made scaffold resides. The researchers tested their silk scaffolds both in in-vitro, as well as implanting them into animals, and demonstrated that they hold onto mesenchymal stem cells seeded throughout their structure and help them grow throughout.
Here’s a video report from the American Chemical Society about the research: