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Cellular Scuba Tank
03 August 2015

Cellular Scuba Tank

Stem cells have a special property called pluripotency, which lets them become any type of cell in the body. Scientists can take advantage of this by using stem cells to grow living tissue or organs in the lab. However, there are particular challenges to successfully growing larger tissues in the lab, such as how to supply oxygen to the cells growing in the centre that become suffocated by the surrounding cells. New research has found a way to overcome this, by attaching an oxygen-carrying protein called myoglobin to the cells. Here's an artist’s impression of myoglobin in action. “It’s like supplying each cell with its own scuba tank,” said Dr Adam Perriman, lead researcher from the University of Bristol. With this new method, scientists may be able to engineer large pieces of cartilage, muscle and bone for studying diseases, testing potential treatments and implanting to replace damaged body parts.

Written by Kevin Pollock

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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