Monday, November 5, 2012

Bio-Art: Organic Scaffolding.

Getting older sucks.  Everything starts wearing down. You know those bodily functions like urination? Those are problems, now. So, too, is cartilage.

For those of you who have no idea what cartilage is, cartilage is what your nose is made of.  It is also found in between bones as a cushion of sorts. As one can imagine, this cushioning, or lack thereof, becomes quite noticeable as the years wear on. Cartilage transplants are particularly painful and heal excruciatingly slowly.

Well, maybe there's some hope for a new, easier way to heal cartilage in the future. The living hyaline cartilage graft, made in early 2012, offers an easier way to fix at least one body issue. It's hard to tell which came first: The artistic graft above, made by Frank Moutos and Farshid Guilak of Duke Medical Center in North Carolina, or the LHCG made...where, again? The names behind the LHCG look Korean, but it was tested in New Zealand.

There are a number of problems with organ transplants and anything like them. The first, most obvious one is rejection; sterile or not, this is a foreign item in the body.The second is that any foreign object insertion leaves the recipient prone to bacterial infection. In the case of the woven scaffold above, this risk is magnified times ten; the process is tedious, and any ins and outs of a weaving needle allow for bacteria.

How is this problem fixed? By growing the cartilage, then putting it into a sanitary gel. This graft is made entirely out of living cartilage. This living cartilage had no immune rejection whatsoever when tested in rabbits. If repeated, this technique could be used to replicate things like muscle tissue or pits of bone. Good news!

But is it art? Yes, it's a marvelous advance in science, but says nothing beyond that. There's nothing really aesthetic about it aside from the weave. Whether it deserved to win the award at the bio-art convention in May or not, it is cool that cartilage transplants will be more successful.

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