Doctors might soon be piecing together damaged tissues and organs thanks to this new biomaterial.
Engineers and scientists at Northwestern University in the US have developed a range of biomaterial ‘tissue papers’ that can be rolled, folded, cut and sutured to help organs and tissues heal.
To make the paper, cow and pig organs are blended with a strong soap over several days to strip them of everything but the cell’s structural proteins, or extracellular matrix. This is then ground into a powder and processed into paper-like sheets.
The paper feels and behaves like standard office paper, and is so flexible it can pretty much take any shape – even an origami crane.
Researcher Adam Jakus said the tissue paper could provide the support and cell signalling needed to regenerate tissue, prevent scarring and accelerate healing after surgery.
It can also be used for some types of hormone therapy for cancer patients, tissue engineering and growing adult stem cells.
Jakus and colleagues in Ramille Shah’s Tissue Engineering and Additive Manufacturing Laboratory are now using the same technology to produce other material formulations.
Samples include: hyper-realistic bone to regenerate bone; 3D-graphene to regenerate nerve, muscle and cardiac tissue; metals for anything you’d want printed out of any kind of metal; and a Martian-like material for (hopefully) building structures on Mars one day.