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UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science

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Quantification of cell-bubble interactions in a 3D engineered tissue phantom

31 July 2017

A new paper has recently been published in the journal Scientific Reports, authored by the Division's Claire Walsh and Umber Cheema.

For hundreds of years it has been know that bubbles which form during ascent from underwater diving cause a condition known as ’ the Bends’ or Decompression sickness (DCS). Despite over 200 years of research, the exact mechanism by which these bubbles interact with and damage cells in the body is unknown. This research investigates the interactions that occur between bubbles formed during simulated SCUBA dives and cells in a 3D engineered tissue phantom. Using a tissue phantom and a miniature pressure chamber, cellular behaviour and bubble dynamics were imaged in real-time. 

We show that by increasing the number of cells in the tissue phantom, the amount of dissolved oxygen is decreased which in turn leads to a decrease in bubble formation, but no change in bubble growth rate. We also use the system to quantified the amount of cell death caused by bubble formation and exposure to toxically high oxygen concentrations. These findings are of use in understanding the pathophysiology of DCS, which is needed to establish new biomarkers and therapeutic targets, as well as develop current dive algorithms.    

The paper is available via the following link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-06678-y