UCL News


Press cutting: Scientists spin cells into a living yarn

21 November 2006

Scientists in London have spun fine threads of biocompatible silicone that contain living human brain cells.

The cells remained alive and capable of growth afterward for some days.

"This has far-reaching implications and will enable significant advances to be made in science and technologies ranging from tissue engineering to therapeutic medicine," said Dr Suwan Jayasinghe [UCL Mechanical Engineering], who reports the work with Dr Andrea Townsend-Nicholson [UCL Biochemistry & Molecular Biology] in the journal 'Biomacromolecules'.

"The ability to electrospin biologically active threads and scaffolds of living organisms will be tremendously useful for the development of a whole host of novel bioengineering and biological/medical applications," say the scientists.

The team used a method called electrospinning, a well-established process for drawing fibres out of a thick polymer by use of an electric field. …

The medical grade silicone material formed a fibre around the brain cells, which continue to live so long as there were nutrients in the fibre. This is the first time that the feat has been managed without harming the cells. …

One use of these fibres, based on biodegradeable polymers, would be to introduce nerve cells to help repair the nervous system. Another potential use would be in a smart biodegradeable fibre, which could be sprayed into a wound and help repair it with a soldier's own cells, he said. …

Roger Highfield, 'The Daily Telegraph'