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Biological systems and regenerative medicine

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Published on Jan 12, 2010

[An engineering approach to investigation of biological systems and regenerative medicine]

The Sudo Laboratory aims to contribute to regenerative medicine, by applying engineering design concepts to biological systems. Systems that people use everyday for example, mechanical systems like automobiles display capabilities that cant be obtained with single components. This is achieved by combining various parts.
By analogy, the Sudo Lab considers that a living system acts as a tissue, an organ, and ultimately, a human or other organism as a result of combining 60 trillion parts called cells. In this way, the Lab is working to understand biological systems from an engineering viewpoint.

Q.In conventional research, the approach used is molecular biology. As a result, the focus gets narrowed down to the organs, tissues, and cells in our bodies, or down to the level of proteins and RNA. Such research is based on the reductionist approach of understanding system elements in detail. But by adopting an engineering viewpoint, we take the direction of integration. So our research is based on a reconstructive approach; that is, how to reconstruct large things from small things. In this way, we consider how parts come together and what functions they exhibit overall, rather than the job of each part.

Using this kind of reconstructive approach to living systems, the Sudo Lab is developing in vitro technology for reconstructing liver and blood vessel tissues. To reconstruct liver tissue in vitro, the cell culture environment must be controlled through engineering. To do this, the Sudo Lab is testing control using a tool called a microfluidic system.

Q.A microfluidic system provides cells a physiological environment of micrometer order. In such a small environment, engineering factors such as diffusion or convection around cells can be controlled. So far, such an approach has hardly ever been taken in biological research. By reproducing this kind of environment in vitro, it will be possible to regenerate more complex 3D tissues.

In this kind of research on reconstruction of living tissue, many questions remain to be answered. Consequently, the Sudo Labs research on biological systems from an engineering viewpoint is expected to make a big contribution to regenerative medicine.

Q.To regenerate 3D liver tissue, its necessary to reconstruct blood vessels, bile ducts, and 3D tissue that combines them. But the topic of introducing capillaries into reconstructed tissue is not limited to the liver. The regeneration of 3D tissue including microvascular networks is a major issue in regenerative medicine overall. So I think this research, by clarifying an engineering approach to methods for introducing capillaries, will have many applications in tissue engineering.

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