Engineers have used skin cells to create artificial bones that mimic the ability of natural bone to blend into other tissues such as tendons or ligaments.
The artificial bones display a gradual change from bone to softer tissue rather than the sudden shift of previously developed artificial tissue, providing better integration with the body and allowing them to handle weight more successfully.
"One of the biggest challenges in regenerative medicine is to have a graded continuous interface, because anatomically that's how the majority of tissues appear and there are studies that strongly suggest that the graded interface provides better integration and load transfer," said Andres Garcia, professor at George W Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Garcia and former graduate student Jennifer Phillips, along with research technician Kellie Burns and their collaborators Joseph Le Doux and Robert Guldberg, were not only able to create artificial bone that melds into softer tissues, but were also able to implant the technology in vivo for several weeks.
"Every organ in our body is made up of complex, heterogeneous structures, so the ability to engineer tissues that more closely mimic these natural architectures is a critical challenge for the next wave of tissue engineering," said Phillips, who is now working at Emory University as a postdoctoral research fellow in developmental biology.
The research appeared in the Aug 26 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.