Microheaters May Pave Way for Easier Tissue Engineering

Originally Published MDDI March 2004R&D DIGEST

March 1, 2004

2 Min Read
Microheaters May Pave Way for Easier Tissue Engineering

Originally Published MDDI March 2004


Erin Bradford

Coated with a special polymer, these tiny microheaters measure less than 1 mm across. Though small, they may hold the key to new techniques for engineering tissue and creating medical sensing devices, say researchers.

Can you imagine developing a quick and cheap way to grow tissue, or creating sensors that can predict pathogens? Researchers at the University of Washington have identified tiny microheaters that might be the key to getting there. These microheaters can prompt chemical changes in surrounding material, and may provide the means to more easily grow replacement tissue. They may even form the basis for medical sensors that could quickly detect pathogens.

The key to the technique involves temperature-driven changes in the material of the microheater's coating. Proteins stick to the material as its temperature rises, and release when its temperature decreases. 

The implications of this discovery are wide-ranging, according to Karl Bohringer, associate professor in the university's department of electrical engineering. This could open to door to “a low cost method to produce protein and cell chips, with applications in biomedical analysis, drug testing, and pathogen testing,” he said.

The proteins stick locally to the areas of the heated coating material, and the researchers found that they could stick cells to the proteins. This provides a relatively simple, low-cost way of creating cell chips to run experiments and to create other devices. 

“A cell chip contains many separate cultures of cells on a small area,” Bohringer explained. “These cultures could consist of the same, or different cells, as in our case. This way, experiments with live cells can be conducted in parallel, reducing time and cost.”

Bohringer is optimistic about the microheaters' possible use in medical devices. “I think our work has some advantages over other programs, such as simplicity of the device design, low cost, and ‘programmability'; that is, different cell cultures can be created with the same physical device design,” said Bohringer. He hopes that this technology could eventually be applied to making skin grafts, replacement blood vessels, or any other application that calls for thin layers of tissue.

Copyright ©2004 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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