An injection that can help damaged tissue re-grow has for a long time been patients’ and physicians’ dream alike. A new study by researchers at UBC Okanagan brings that dream to reality. This is through a device that encapsulates cells much faster. It is more effective and cheaper.
Keekyoung Kim said that the idea of injecting different tissue cells is not a new idea. He is an assistant professor of engineering at UBC Okanagan. He referred to the concept as an enticing concept. This is because introducing cells into damaged tissue supercharges the body’s processes to re-grow and repair injuries. He said that everything including broken bones and torn ligaments could benefit from this kind of approach. He also suggested that improvement in technology could lead to the possibility of whole organs being repaired.
Kim said that the problem is that cells are delicate on their own and may not always survive once injected directly into the body. According to Mohamed Gamal, to ensure cell survival, they should be encased in coatings that protect them from physical damage. This will also protect them from the body’s immune system. However, it has proven very hard to carry out that kind of cell encapsulation. It is a time-consuming, costly and wasteful process. Gamal is a biomedical engineering doctoral student. He is also the lead author of the study.
Was the problem solved?
Gamal and Kim solved the problem. They developed an automated encapsulation device that could encase multiple cells in microgels. This is by the use of a specialized blue laser purifying them to produce a usable clean sample in a few minutes. The advantage this system offers is that more than 85% of these cells do survive and they can scale up the process easily.
Kim said that studies into this area are being hampered by the unavailability and the cost of mass-produced cell encapsulated microgels. He said that they had solved the problem and their system could produce up to many thousands of cell-encapsulated microgels. These could all be done rapidly, therefore, supercharging the bio-engineering field. Gamal said that in addition to the development of an efficient and quick system, the equipment is made of cheap and readily available components.
Gamal also said that any lab with the intention of carrying out this kind of work could set up such a system. It could cost as low as a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousands. This is quite affordable for laboratory equipment.
The next step is for the team to embed different types of stem cells into microgels alongside specialized hormones(growth factors) or proteins. The idea is to help stem cells transform into appropriate tissue types when injected.
It is really exciting to see where this kind of technology goes next and the capabilities of the encapsulated stem cell.