Time to get your dose of science nerdism with this news out of MIT where they have discovered a new way to create multi-layered microparticles in a wide array of shapes.
Why is this important?
Well in the world of medicine microparticles are used to deliver medication to specific cells and used to create scaffolds for building artificial tissues. The problem is that using current technology you can only create microparticles that can only deliver one type of drug at a time and these microparticles can only be created is a very limited number of shapes.
Both these limitations make it difficult to utilize microparticles to their fullest potential. However thanks to the scientists at MIT we now have a new way to create microparticles that allows for them to carry multiple types of drugs as well as create them in a whole bunch of new shapes which will make creating artificial tissues a lot easier; and allow for a greater range of tissue types to be created.
MIT’s new technique starts the same way, in that a liquid drug- or cell-containing gel is inserted into a tiny mold. Once the gel has set, the mold is heated, which causes its walls to shrink back away from the sides of the molded gel. A second layer of gel, containing a different type of drug or cell, can then be added in the extra space that the shrinkage has opened up. The process could theoretically be repeated several times, to create a microparticle containing several layers.
That multilayered particle could then be used for the timed release of several types of drugs, or to more closely emulate the structure of a certain type of natural tissue.
Starting with an agarose (sugar) gel, the MIT researchers have so far used the technique to create cylindrical, cubic, and long striped microparticles, although they state that many other shapes and materials should be possible. The striped particles contained a layer of fibroblasts, which are cells that make up connective tissue, surrounded by a layer of endothelial cells, which form blood vessels. That composition could make them ideal for the engineering of elongated tissues such as skeletal muscle, or cardiac or neural tissue.
Pretty amazing stuff if you ask me.