Researchers create new shape-changing 4D materials that hold promise for tissue engineering

Tissue engineering is the basis of a large number of clinical research in biochemistry. With continuous research, researchers have discovered new hydrogel-based material can change its shape in response to a psychological stimulant such as water.

In fact, hydrogel-based materials could be the next-gen materials that could find use to bioengineer tissues and organs, say a team of researchers at the University of Illinois.

A paper published on the study describes the details of the substances. The paper details how hydrogel-based substances show they can curl into tubes in response to water. This makes them good candidates for bioengineering of blood vessels or other tubular structures.

Physiologically, embryonic development and tissue healing often involves a high concentration of cells. Furthermore, the process involves complex organizational and architectural changes that ultimately gives rise to final tissue structure and morphology.

Meanwhile, traditional techniques for tissue engineering involve culture of biodegradable polymer scaffolds. In this arrangement, cells in biochambers are filled with liquid nutrients that keep the cell alive. Over a period of time, when appropriate signals provided, the cells multiply in number and produce new tissues that take the shape of the scaffold as it degrades. For example, a scaffold with the shape of an ear having cells capable of producing skin tissue and cartilage may in the due course become a transplantable ear.

Nonetheless, a geometrically static scaffold is not able to form tissues that change shape dynamically over time. In addition, tissues in living being facilitate interactions with neighboring tissues that change shape as well. Importantly, high density of cells is typically not supported or used by the scaffolds.