Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, June 01, 2009

A whole new you - Progress Toward Artificial Tissue? - May 15, 2009

For modern implants and the growth of artificial tissue and organs, it is important to generate materials with characteristics that closely emulate nature.

However, the tissue in our bodies has a combination of traits that are very hard to recreate in synthetic materials: It is both soft and very tough.

A team of Australian and Korean researchers led by Geoffrey M. Spinks and Seon Jeong Kim has now developed a novel, highly porous, sponge-like material whose mechanical properties closely resemble those of biological soft tissues. As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, it consists of a robust network of DNA strands and carbon nanotubes.

This results in materials that are as elastic as the softest natural tissues while simultaneously deriving great strength from the robust DNA links.

Soft tissues, such as tendons, muscles, arteries, and skin or other organs, obtain their mechanical support from the extracellular matrix, a network of protein-based nanofibers. Different protein morphologies in the extracellular matrix produce tissue with a wide range of stiffness. Implants and scaffolding for tissue growth require porous, soft materials -- which are usually very fragile. Because many biological tissues are regularly subjected to intense mechanical loads, it is also important that the implant material have comparable elasticity in order to avoid inflammation. At the same time, the material must be very strong and resilient, or it may give out.

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