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Cardiac muscle tissue made of spider silk.

More people suffer from cardiac insufficiency despite advances in preventing and minimizing damage to the heart. The main cause lies in irreversible loss of cardiac muscle cells due to disease, especially ischemic diseases like cardiac infarction. There is still no treatment to reverse this damage; research is ongoing to develop repair methods to normalize cardiac function. A promising approach: cardiac muscle tissue made of spider silk. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Niirnberg (FAU) and their colleagues at the University of Bayreuth investigated whether artificial silk protein developed in the laboratory could be suitable to engineer cardiac tissue. They published their results in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Silk could be key to artificial cardiac tissue--specifically, the protein giving the silk its structure and mechanical stability: fibroin. Prof. Dr. Felix Engel of the Department of Nephropathology at Universitat Erlangen examined the properties of silk from the Indian silkworm and demonstrated its particular suitability as scaffolding material for engineering cardiac tissue. Until now producing the protein in sufficient quantities and at a consistent quality was impossible. His colleague, Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel, holder of the chair for Biomaterials at the University of Bayreuth, successfully produced a recombinant silk protein from garden spiders in the required larger quantities and of a consistent quality with the help of E. coli. This led the two researchers to join forces and investigate garden spiders' silk proteins.

Jana Petzold of the Erlangen team headed by Engel and Tamara Aigner from Scheibel's Bayreuth working group collaborated in investigating the suitability of the silk protein eADF4(kl6) produced in the laboratory for the production of cardiac tissue. The research involved applying a thin layer of the silk protein to a glass slide. The technique is based on the fact that cells with a negatively charged surface adhere to films made of eADF4(kl6) due to its positive charge. Petzold and Aigner attempted to apply other cells, such as connective tissue cells and blood vessel cells, to the film, and were successful each time.

Their investigations focused on cardiac cell functionality. They compared these cells to cells they had applied to a film of fibronectin, similar to cardiac cells' natural environment. No functional differences between the two were observed. The researchers demonstrated that factors responsible for hypertrophy--enlargement of cardiac cells for instance in athletes and pregnant women--also led to growth in volume in cardiac cells cultured on a film of eADF4(kl6).

The work and possibilities of printing artificial silk proteins represent the first steps toward future methods for engineering functional cardiac tissue.

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Title Annotation:IN DEVELOPMENT
Publication:Medical Product Outsourcing
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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