Laser-Assembled Implant Enables Tissue Regeneration
Laser assembled protein test scaffold.
CREDIT: Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology
The best medicines are the ones the body produces itself, and a new laser-assembled implant could help the body heal itself more thoroughly than ever before. The implants, laced with a patient's own cells, serve as scaffolding that anchors 3-D tissue regeneration. Once implanted, the cells multiply and heal wounds, burns or diseased flesh from the inside out.
The technology, developed by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT), centers on using lasers to build implants out of natural proteins . A high intensity laser beam initiates a chemical reaction in the proteins that leads them to bind together into a scaffold of the desired shape. A special computer system controls the position of the laser beam through a microscope, with a precision of a few hundred nanometers, in such a way so that micrometer-fine, stable volume elements of cross-linked material gradually form out of the protein slurry.
"This enables us to produce scaffolds for cell scaffolds with a resolution of approximately one micrometer directly from dissolved proteins and polymers to exactly match our construction plan," explains Sascha Engelhardt, project manager at the ILT. "These biomimetic scaffolds will enable us to answer many aspects of three dimensional cell growth."
As pure protein structures are not very stable, the researchers combine them with biocompatible polymers. This new process makes it possible to create structures offering much greater stability.
Once seeded with a patient's own cells, the colonized scaffolds can then produce good implant growth in the patient's body. The long-term aim is to use the process to produce not only individual cell colonies, but also completely artificial, tailor-made organs .