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“Tissue Velcro” Designed By Engineers

Last updated Sept. 3, 2015

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

"Cardiac cells in culture, growing along the POMaC scaffold. The video demonstrates that the biocompatible mesh is flexible and beats in rhythm with the cardiac cells, when the cells are stimulated with electrical current." Courtesy, University of Toronto Engineering.


Engineers from the University of Toronto, Canada, have designed a biocompatible two-dimensional (2-D) scaffold that allows three-dimensional (3-D) assembly of functional cardiac cells in the lab.

Tissue engineering encompasses construction of functional units made from cells, scaffolding, proteins, and growth factors. that could potentially restore, maintain, or improve functions of tissues and organs. The challenge with tissue engineering is the replication of the exact arrangement of cells in a tissue/organ that also has the structural integrity and function of the system. Polymers are versatile materials that lend themselves to such applications among many others, including delivery of medicines to target locations inside the body.

Researchers from the University of Toronto have created a 2-D polymer mesh, made of a material known as POMaC. The mesh, called “Tissue-Velcro,” operates on the same principle of hooks on one surface and loops on the other like Velcro™, which attaches the two surfaces. “Tissue-Velcro” was then tested on cultured rat heart cells. The results show that this biocompatible mesh:

  • Allows the cardiac cells to adhere and grow around the “Tissue-Velcro.”
  • Is flexible and beats in rhythm with the cardiac cells, when the cells are stimulated with electrical current.
  • Clicks into place with a second mesh (forming Tissue-Velcro) when it is placed on it with a different type of cells in culture; and the unit starts functioning immediately.
  • The beating of Tissue-Velcro units is synchronized.
  • Layers could be assembled and disassembled, without appreciable tissue damage during the process.
  • Allowed cell-cell connections between various cell types to be established.
  • Is biodegradable and will denature inside the body over time.

The research article states, “Tissue-Velcro is a platform technology based on a biocompatible, implantable, and biodegradable polymer, which can easily be transferred, in future studies, to cell coculture in multiple settings.”

Talking about the superiority of “Tissue-Velcro,” the senior author of the study, Professor Milica Radisic, says in the University of Toronto News, “One of the main advantages is the ease of use. We can build larger tissue structures immediately before they are needed, and disassemble them just as easily. I don’t know of any other technique that gives this ability.”

The use of “Tissue-Velcro” is not limited to heart cells and could be used with a number of other cell/tissue types. This will enable scientists to test drugs and biologics in a more realistic environment, according to the University of Toronto News. The team is now working on animal experiments, and is aiming to take “Tissue-Velcro” to the clinic soon.

Written by Mangala Sarkar, Ph.D.

Primary References

Zhang, B., Montgomery, M., Davenport-Huyer, L., Korolj, A., & Radisic, M. (2015). Platform technology for scalable assembly of instantaneously functional mosaic tissues. Science Advances, 1(7), DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500423

New. (2015, August 28). Retrieved August 31, 2015, from http://news.engineering.utoronto.ca/tissue-velcro/

DoveMed Resource

Polymers Help to Carry Active Ingredients to the Right Target Location Inside Our Body. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2015, from http://www.dovemed.com/dovemed-blog/polymers-help-carry-active-ingredients/

Additional References

Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2015, from http://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/tissue-engineering-and-regenerative-medicine

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Sept. 3, 2015
Last updated: Sept. 3, 2015