Growing human cells for use in medicine or the science of tissue engineering is in practice today. Lab-grown cells are the ones that are being used in experimental treatments.
However, some researchers believe that there is latest method of tissue engineering that would probably improve the quality of the work and that is ‘growing the cells on a moving robot skeleton’. Usually, the cells that are used in regenerative medicines are grown in steady environments.
Few experiments suggest that, though the cells can be grown on structures that can move such as hinges, the cells have only bent or stretched the tissues in one direction. But now the researchers of the robotics firm Devanthro and the Oxford University supposed that if these cells are to be grown to flex and move like muscles and tendons, it’s necessary to recreate an accurate natural growing environment. Due to this reason, the researchers decided to approximate a mobile human body.
It is not easy to grow cells in a human body as it leads to problems, so the cross-disciplinary team planned to approximate the human musculoskeletal system using a robot.
How was the experiment performed?
As per a paper published in Communications Engineering, the researchers first chose an open-source robot skeleton designed by the engineers at Devanthro. They then formed a custom growing environment for the cells that could further be fixed into the shoulder of a robot.
The robot’s shoulder consists of strings of biodegradable filaments stretched between two anchor points, alike a hank of hair, with the complete structure closed within a balloon-like outer membrane.
The human cells were then seeded in the hair-like filaments and the chamber was swamped with a nutrient-rich liquid. The liquid is specially designed to encourage cell growth.
It took two weeks for the cells to grow. Also, the bioreactor was fitted inside the shoulder for about 30 minutes each day and was waggled.
The major thing to be noted here is the team that observed some changes in the exercising cells that were dissimilar to those grown in a static environment, was not sure if the changes were good.
What did the lead researcher of the project portray about the observations?
Lead researcher, Pierre-Alexis Mouthuy of the University of Oxford’s Botnar Institute of Musculoskeletal Sciences, told The Verge that the differences observed by him and the team were the results based on measuring the activity and growth of various genes, at best, unclear in terms of future medical applications.
The researchers’ team has proved that the growing cells in a robot skeleton are achievable. However, they now want to know if the experiment is worth their time. As of now, they need more time to know what’s really happening or going to happen.
Also, this is what Mouthuy says, “ We need to do much more work to understand what’s really going on.”