Maglev Tissues Could Speed Toxicity Tests

The research is part of an international trend in biomedical engineering to create laboratory techniques for growing tissues that are virtually identical to those found in people's bodies. In the new study, researchers combined four types of cells to replicate tissue from the wall of the bronchiole deep inside the lung.

"One of the unique things about the magnetic levitation technology is that it allows us to move cells around and arrange them the way that we want for a particular types of tissue," said study co-author Tom Killian. "This is the first time anyone has arranged these four cell types in the same way that they are found in lung tissue."

In vitro laboratory tests have historically been conducted on 2-D cell cultures grown in flat petri dishes, but scientists have become increasingly aware that cells in flat cultures sometimes behave and interact differently than cells that are immersed in 3-D tissue.

Killian and fellow scientists from Rice and the University of Texas created a technology that uses magnetism to levitate and grow 3-D cell cultures. The technology relies on inert, nontoxic magnetic nanoparticles that are inserted into the living cells. Researchers can then use magnets to lift and suspend the cells as they grow and divide.

"Growing realistic lung tissues in vitro is a particular challenge," said study co-author Jane Grande-Allen. "There are a number of technical obstacles, and scientific funding agencies have placed a particular emphasis on lung tissue because there's a large potential payoff in terms of reducing costs for pharmaceutical and toxicological testing."; Source: Rice University