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Bioactive ‘Tissue Papers’ for Regenerative Medicine

Paperlike biomaterials created from meat and animal byproducts may be able to regenerate and restore function to tissues and organs.

Sally Johnson, Contributor
Friday, August 11, 2017


A minor mishap in the lab—spilling 3-D printable ink onto a dry sheet of tissue paper—has led to the creation of a new class of biomaterials.

Far from crying over spilled ink, the Northwestern Medicine researchers in Chicago, Illinois had an “aha!” moment and realized that they could craft thin, flexible “tissue papers” with materials derived from ovarian, uterine, kidney, liver, muscle or heart proteins from pig and cow organs.

Structural proteins excreted by cells give the tissue papers their form and structure, while a polymer mixed with the proteins makes the tissues flexible. The simple process of making the bioactive tissue papers involves removing cells from the natural organs or tissues, then extracting the structural proteins and drying them into a powder, which can then be processed into the tissue paper.

Each type of tissue paper the researchers created contains the specific cellular properties of the natural organs or tissues from which they are made—and can stimulate cells to behave in a certain manner. This holds promise not only for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, according to the researchers, but for drug discovery and therapeutics as well. The researchers’ work was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials August 7.