In culture dishes, cells generally grow as two-dimensional sheets, but inside the body they connect, communicate and interact with each other in three dimensions. To recreate 3D tissue environments, scientists have devised a range of culturing techniques involving biocompatible scaffolds, gelatinous building blocks and the like, but manipulating and dismantling such tissues often means destroying their structure. Now a team of researchers has created an interlocking cell scaffold that can be layered together or pulled apart as easily as Velcro. Cells are first grown on individual scaffold sheets, which are then attached to further sheets to rapidly assemble thicker tissue patches. Tissue Velcro will help researchers study how cells behave in conditions akin to real tissue, but ultimately might even be used to fix damaged organs in patients. Interlocking sheets of heart fibroblasts (green) and muscle cells (red), for example, might one day be used to patch injured hearts.
Written by Ruth Williams
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