When someone gets an organ transplant, there’s a risk that their immune system will attack it, as it doesn’t have the same cellular markers as the rest of their body. Lately we’ve been able to reduce this risk for certain organs by decellularising them – stripping the cells away to leave the supportive structural mesh called the extracellular matrix (ECM) – and growing the patient’s own cells on them. Scientists recently examined how decellularisation affects the ECM in different tissues, using samples from pigs. They found that up close there were small structural changes in the ECMs. Additionally, muscular tissues could take more stress after decellularisation, but skin became weaker. The image shows decellularised skin: the hole used to contain a hair follicle, but these cells have been extracted: removing cells like this partly contributed to weakening the skin. This research helps us develop better ways to treat transplant tissue.
Written by Esther Redhouse White
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