Octopus-inspired teat for transplanting cell sheets

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a “nipple” to pick up and transfer thin sheets of cells or tissue that are intended for therapeutic purposes such as wound healing or tissue transplantation. Inspired by octopus suction cups, the device can gently manipulate the delicate leaves without causing damage, and uses heating and a temperature sensitive hydrogel to create suction between the sucker and leaf.

“In the past few decades, sheets of cells or tissue have increasingly been used to treat injured or diseased tissue. A critical aspect of tissue transplantation, such as corneal transplantation, is the surgical grasping and safe transplantation of soft tissues, ”said Hyunjoon Kong, a researcher involved in the study. “However, handling these living substances remains a major challenge because they are fragile and easily crumple when they are picked up from the culture media.”

Thin films are difficult to handle manually.

The device is inspired by the octopus’s suction cups, which can easily pick up wet and slippery materials. Octopus suckers use muscle manipulation to suck without sticky glue. In the new device, the “teat” applies heat to a temperature-sensitive hydrogel layer, which shrinks it slightly. As soon as it is pressed onto the thin film, the heat stops, which causes the hydrogel to expand again.

This expansion creates a low pressure suction area between the hydrogel and the cell sheet so that the device can then lift the cell sheet without causing damage. Once the nipple is in position, the heat can be reapplied, causing the hydrogel to gently release the thin film.

“During surgery, surgeons need to minimize the risk of soft tissue damage and transplant quickly and without contamination,” said Kong. “The transfer of ultra-thin materials without wrinkles or damage is another crucial aspect.”

Other uses include moving delicate sheets of electronic components for portable biosensors. In the next few steps, sensors will be built into the device so that the forces exerted on the films can be measured to ensure that they maintain their integrity and are not damaged.

Check out a video from the University of Illinois about the device below:

Study in Advances in science: Electrothermal soft manipulator that enables the safe transport and handling of thin cell / tissue foils and bioelectronic devices

Via: University of Illinois

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