Published: 10th March 2021
These researchers from CUSAT are developing biocombatible materials for bone and tissue engineering
We speak to the team of scholars from CUSAT who have been working since October 2020 to develop a material that can generate electricity without damaging skin cells
Scholars from CUSAT are developing novel piezoelectric scaffolds (a structural element that holds cells or tissues together) that can be used as implantable engineered bone tissues. But first we need to understand the technicalities. The university’s, Inter Universitry Centre for Nanomaterials and Devices(IUCND) and Department of Biotechnology have come together to develop piezoelectric nanofibers — a material that will generate electricity if pressure is applied on it — that are biocompatible. So what does it mean if such a material is biocompatible? It does not destroy living cells when placed in the body. This could transform the way people are healed.
Since October 2020, Anshida Mayeen, a researcher under IUCND and her team have been focusing on the development of these piezoelectric scaffolds, She says, "Many studies are going on now outside of India about how these materials can be used in the form of scaffolds or wound healing in the form of patches. Since they are compatible with our bodies, these fibres get electrically stimulated through our body movements like a simple gesture where me move our hands back and forth. If there is a wound, based on the stimulation the skin gets, it grows and is able to cover up the wound."
Anshida and her team's award-winning plan focuses on the development of these piezoelectric scaffolds for bone/tissue engineering. According to them, conventional bone tissue scaffolds mimic the components of native bone tissue for developing an artificial bone. Mechanical stimulation is an essential factor for bone formation and most of the time, scaffolds are unable to achieve it. Led by Dr Honey John, Director, IUCND, Dr Shalumon KT, IUCND, Dr. Saritha Bhatt, Professor and HOD, Department of Biotechnology, CUSAT, Dr Sherin Joseph, Researcher, IUCND — their research is specifically aimed at people who have conditions where their cells are damaged. These scaffolds, which have an implantable application, are being developed and their biocompatibility is being studied. For this, they resort to in vitro studies on cells and tissues. Done over an incubation period of three days in a specific condition, they use a microscope to study the cell damage.
Currently, the in vitro tests have almost concluded through bio tests and the material has been developed. "We will gradually move on to testing on mice models to test the accuracy. "The biocompatible patches can be used extensively for healing chronic diabetic wounds. And it has many applications outside of medicine as well. It can be attached to the soles of our feet and generate enough electricity to charge our personal devices. In some countries, piezoelectric roads have been made. When cars pass over it, the pressure creates electricity which can power the streetlights of the area," explains Anshida.