New Delhi, Oct 27: Bones are mostly made of a protein called collagen and a mineral called Calcium Phosphate. Collagen forms a soft framework and Calcium Phosphate hardens it, giving it strength. Bones are one of the organs that have tremendous potential for self-regeneration. But, the process is fraught with several complications which delay or hamper regeneration.
The existing practices to overcome this are autologous, allogenic, or xenogenic bone grafts. But, they have limitations. Tissue engineering can play a crucial role in introducing new approaches and solutions. One of the approaches of tissue engineering relies on the use of biomaterials to mimic the bone microenvironment and to stimulate bone formation. Further down, tissue engineering strategies work on the triad of scaffolds, cells, and signaling cues.
A scaffold serves as a temporary extracellular matrix (ECM) to promote bone tissue formation or regeneration. A temporary scaffold must provide a suitable microenvironment for cells to attach, proliferate, and differentiate to form new tissue. In order to obtain scaffolds with these properties, several new approaches are being studied to introduce design features including material composition, biodegradability, and mechanical properties.
The scaffold must mimic the extracellular matrix as closely as possible. Natural ECM is composed of protein and polysaccharide-based networks, which provide mechanical support and signals for essential cell functions. Several studies have shown that natural systems in the form of scaffolds can provide the right microenvironment but lack the appropriate toughness and mechanical suitability.
To improve mechanical properties, various polymerization approaches have been introduced. One such type is the use of what is termed a double network system. Double network systems with asymmetric structures have excellent mechanical properties and thus show great potential.
In a new study, researchers at the Department of Biotechnology’s Bhubaneswar-based Institute of Life Sciences, (DBT-ILS) have investigated the potential for using a set of protein molecules called Mucins for developing such double network systems in combination with polymers.
Mucins have a high ability to hold water, giving them gel-like properties and they facilitated developing intermolecular crosslinking. Some mucins are also associated with controlling mineralization, including nacre formation in mollusks, calcification in echinoderms, and bone formation in vertebrates.
Speaking to India Science Wire, team leader Dr. Mamoni Dash, Ramalingaswami Fellow at the Institute said that although several protein matrices have been investigated, this was the first time the possibility of utilizing and developing Mucin as the matrix of choice for bone tissue engineering has been studied. “The results have been encouraging. We hope our study would pave the way for the development of a new method to help in bone regeneration”. The details of this work have been published in Macromolecular Biosciences. (India Science wire)