But growing usable human tendon cells – which must be stretched and twisted – has proven more complex. Over the past two decades, scientists have encouraged constructed tendon cells and tissues to grow and mature by stretching them several times in one direction. However, this approach has so far failed to produce fully functional tissue transplants that could be used clinically in human bodies.
A new study, published in Nature Communications Engineering today, it shows how humanoid robots can be used to make constructed tendon tissue that looks more like the real thing.
“The clinical need obviously exists,” said Pierre-Alexis Mouthuy of the University of Oxford, who led the team. “If we can create in vitro transplants that can be of sufficient quality for use in clinics, it would be of great help to improve patient outcomes. Any improvement would be more than welcome. ”
The first step involved redesigning the test chamber, which houses cells known as bioreactors, to attach to the humanoid robot’s shoulder that can bend, push, pull and twist cells in the same way that musculoskeletal tissues would.
While traditional bioreactors resemble rigid boxes, the team has created a flexible one in which human fibroblast cells – elongated cells found in connective tissue – are grown on soft plastic scaffolding hung between two rigid blocks. They attached this chamber to the robotic shoulder, which spent half an hour a day for 14 days replicating the types of lifting and rotation that a human would make.
After that, it was discovered that the cells in the bioreactor multiplied faster than the samples that were not stretched, and expressed the genes in a different way – although researchers still do not know how to translate that into transplant quality. The team plans to investigate how cells grown in their new bioreactor are compared to those grown in traditional stretchable bioreactors.