Tracking lab-grown tissue with light | 9/29/2017 | Staff
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Someday, doctors would like to grow limbs and other body tissue for soldiers who have lost arms in battle, children who need a new heart or liver, and many other people with critical needs. Today, medical professionals can graft cells from a patient, deposit them onto a tissue scaffold, and insert the scaffold into the body to encourage the growth of bone, cartilage and other specialized tissue. But researchers are still working toward building complex organs that can be implanted into patients.

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are supporting this field of research by developing a promising new kind of light-based sensor to study tissue growth in the lab.

NIST - Team - Work - Today - Sensors

The NIST team's proof-of-concept work, published today in Sensors and Actuators B, demonstrates a small sensor that uses a light-based signal to measure pH, the measurement unit for acidity, an important property in cell-growth studies. The same basic design could be used to measure other qualities such as the presence of calcium, cell growth factor and certain antibodies.

Unlike conventional sensors, this measurement method could be used to monitor the environment in a cell culture long-term—for weeks at a time—without having to disturb the cells regularly to calibrate the sensing instruments. Watching properties of the tissue in real time as they slowly change, over days or weeks, could greatly benefit tissue engineering studies to grow teeth, heart tissue, bone tissue and more, said NIST chemist Zeeshan Ahmed.

Sensors - Tissue - Researchers - Information - Ahmed

"We want to make sensors that can be put inside growing tissue to give researchers quantitative information," Ahmed said. "Is the tissue actually growing? Is it healthy? If you grow a bone, does it have the right mechanical properties or is it too weak to support a body?"

The work could have benefits beyond tissue engineering too, into studying the progression of diseases such...
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