Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Techno-Topiary
03 December 2012

Techno-Topiary

Wire frames guide the construction of everything from ornamental hedges to colossal skyscrapers. And on a microscopic scale, scientists have developed their own ‘smart’ scaffolds for biological tissue engineering. Cells sprinkled across a 3D mesh of nanowires (coloured brown) use the structure as a stage for growth. Like a high-tech topiary template that knows which parts of the hedge need pruning, the scaffold can sense the cells’ growth. Sensors embedded within the silicon wires provide information about the electrical and chemical conditions deep inside the growing tissue – a step up from the flat growth platforms available previously. The result is a sort of cyborg tissue, sculpted around a man-made scaffold that constantly monitors its development. The scaffold, far from a passive observer, stimulates growth with nano-scale precision. This technology paves the way for an automatic drug delivery system that can specifically target relevant cells and tissues.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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