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Artificial Blood Vessels Being Made by Scientists Using Cotton Candy Machines

Update Date: Feb 15, 2016 02:09 AM EST
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Vanderbilt University's research time is using the cotton candy machine to create artificial blood vessels. Lead researcher, Leon Bellan, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt, said in a press release, that the idea to use cotton candy machine for the production of artificial capillaries occurred to him when participated in a lecture on tissue engineering. "The analogies everyone uses to describe electrospun fibers are that they look like silly string, or Cheese Whiz, or cotton candy," he said. "So I decided to give the cotton candy machine a try. I went to Target and bought a cotton candy machine for about $40. It turned out that it formed threads that were about one tenth the diameter of a human hair - roughly the same size as capillaries - so they could be used to make channel structures in other materials."

Earlier, the scientists let the culture cells to develop capillary systems on its own. This can be a very time consuming process and may take up to weeks and may even prevent the cells from stacking together as they vessels take shape. Unless there are functional capillaries, the tissue located in the center will choke. This is when Bellan decided to try a different approach that works top-down, creating vessels into the lab-grown tissue's fabric from the beginning of the process, says Bustle

He soon realized that microscopic network of artificial blood vessels is created the same way as cotton candy. The size of thin sugar strands, 10-microns wide, is almost the same size as the naturally-occurring capillaries in living tissue. Bellan uses the same schematic and uses a mix of ordinary sugar as well as specialized polymer to keep the strands in their shape when moist. These strands are then placed inside gelatin mold, that forms thin passages within gel, later dissolved through an enzyme solution. As the cells grow within gel, these cubes are able to survive for more than a week, reports Inhabitat

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