Scientists Grow Human Bone Tissue in Laboratory with New Bone-on-chip Device

Scientists can now grow human bones artificially | Image credit: Reuters (Representational)

Scientists can now grow human bones artificially | Image credit: Reuters (Representational)

Researchers have developed a bone-on-a-chip device containing mini scaffolding that can be used to grow human bone tissue in the laboratory.

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  • Last Updated: September 15, 2020, 8:14 PM IST

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Medical science and engineering have grown leaps and bounds in the past decade. With the latest technology being developed that would allow the bone to be grown artificially, the field has now opened new doors into the study of various bone-related diseases.

Researchers at the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine, along with collaborators from Universitat Ramon Llull, Spain, has developed this revolutionary technology. 


In this study, they developed a bone-on-a-chip device containing mini scaffolding that can be used to grow human bone tissue in the laboratory. The bone-on-chip is a tiny chip that’s composed of actual living cells. This chip can grow bone tissue upon its scaffolding, and that tissue can then be utilized to test potential treatments or experimental procedures for damages/diseased bones. This information was published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.

So far, all of the experimental/potential treatment, tests were performed in-vivo i.e. inside living animal models. This necessary yet cruel practice has been protested against by various welfare groups and animal activists for decades. With this new technology, however, in-vitro research would be made possible – thanks to the team at the University of Sheffield. 

The field of growing organs artificially, for the purposes of research, has been around for some time now. Organ-on-chip attempts to develop miniature versions of various organs that can be contained within this device. This would help replace, for example, rodent test subjects. Any new medicine, before entering human trial-stage, is tested on rodents like mice. However, there is a genetic dissimilarity between the two (aside from the ethical issue) so these lab-grown bones or livers or lungs should be the better option for testing, theoretically. 

Their ambitious view is to be able to connect the various chip-organs like liver, lungs etc and create a whole ‘human-on-chip’, a prototype system where the organs would interact with one another in a way akin to real human bodies. If that is ever made possible, there is a possibility that the need for animal in-vivo models can be eradicated completely.


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