[Image: Nick Totaro]
News Release Distributed 05/21/14
BATON ROUGE, La. – An LSU AgCenter researcher is working with a group of LSU students to identify the best materials to use for constructing scaffolds, or synthetic grafts, for use in human bone and musculoskeletal tissue repair.
Scientists construct the scaffolds, or structures, then infuse them with stem cells to create the desired tissue to use for bone or tissue repair. Scaffolds provide the support required for cell attachment and subsequent tissue development, said Daniel Hayes, in the AgCenter Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.
Hayes and his students are researching the possibility of using materials derived from adipose tissue – or fat – to construct scaffolds to use in musculoskeletal tissue repair. Musculoskeletal tissue is all of the tissues in the human body that support bone structure, such as tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
Because people are living longer, they have a higher risk of damaging these tissues, Hayes said. It is important to determine how to improve the healing process for these critical tissues.
“With the aging population, we’re seeing a lot of musculoskeletal injuries,” Hayes said. “We’re testing different types of material to find one that is biobased and degradable. We want to find the least expensive, most robust way to get the material needed to construct the scaffolds.”
According to The State of Aging and Health in America 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, experts anticipate the number of Americans aged 65 and older will be almost 90 million by 2050. This is more than double the number of older adults in the United States in 2010.
The ability for older Americans to move around effectively and safely in their environments is fundamental to the health and well-being of older adults, the report says. Impaired mobility can lead to illnesses and injuries that could ultimately lead to death.
Hayes and his students are researching the use of human adipose tissue for constructing the scaffolds. Dr. Jeffrey Gimble, a stem cell biologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, provides the adipose tissue Hayes and his students use in the scaffold study.
The tissue comes from volunteers who undergo liposuction, a surgical procedure used to remove excess fat from under the skin.
Everyone is required to follow strict safety guidelines when working with the tissue in the lab, said Nick Totaro, a graduate student who is a member of Hayes’ tissue engineering research team.
Totaro’s project is labeled hybrid bone scaffold, in which he is studying how to create bone scaffolds for forming new bones. This study, he said, will be advantageous for arthoplastic surgeries.
“What we’re using is waste material,” Totaro said. “This is material that would otherwise be disposed of. Because this is raw material, we follow strict safety protocols.”
In addition to using human adipose tissue, the researchers are evaluating other sources of material to use when constructing scaffolds.
“We’re also researching using animal fat and other agricultural-based products to make scaffolds,” said Brandon Smith, a senior biological engineering student studying under Hayes. “By using a biologically derived product, we have a constant and cost-effective source of bioactive material.”
Tissue engineering also involves the use of animal-derived materials to repair wounds in humans. The materials include tissue from pigs for human tissue repair and tissues from bovines for human heart-valve repair.
The class associated with this study, Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, is offered in the LSU Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. In addition to the bone scaffolding study, other projects conducted by members of the research team include a photo-activated gene delivery system by Ammar Qureshi and “Bone Foam” by Cong Chen.
Qureshi’s project focuses on developing gene-based tissue-repair therapies for regenerating the bone-cartilage interface. Chen is working to develop new synthetic, injectable, biodegradable materials for use in bone repair.
More information on these studies is on the Web.
A. Denise Attaway