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Real‐time information from intestinal cells growing in 3D on an electroactive scaffold

18 April 2021

Sensing Another Dimension

Much as construction plans might evolve from 2D sketch to 3D model to finished building, biological investigations can move from examinations of cells in a dish, to a 3D cellular model, before findings are applied in patients. Capitalising on these 3D trial environments requires efficient monitoring of the activities within, to see what effect your inputs are having, but conventional monitoring technology isn’t well suited to the 3D world. A new electroactive structure allows dynamic monitoring of electrical activity as the samples grow. The tubular scaffold (video, 0–10s) allows intestine cells to grow in controlled conditions while measuring activity. In tests, the body tissue grew well (11–17s), with key structures such as junctions between cells (green) forming and behaviour such as mucus secretion (red) clearly visible. This approach to tissue growth could add a new dynamic dimension to investigations, helping accelerate the transition from scientific theories to life-saving treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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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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