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Carol Livermore integrates origami into tissue engineering

March 12, 2014

Carol Livermore, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Engineering tissue to create livers and other human organs for transplant is a fast-growing field in biotechnology. To overcome one of its critical challenges, Livermore is applying the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, origami.

Current tissue engineering methods lack precision in placing blood vessels and other organic structures. Backed by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Livermore and her team are attempting to solve that by working with origami artists and theorists to assemble different cell types onto a biocompatible, two-dimensional scaffold—the “paper.” The example Livermore holds here was created by renowned origami artist Robert Lang.

By folding the scaffold correctly, they could construct a three-dimensional block of tissue with the blood vessels and other structures running through it, she says—much like some origami designs neatly fold into a 3D object, such as a bird or flower.

They have successfully tested an initial stage of this technique, inducing mouse cells to self assemble at specific locations on two-dimensional surfaces. The next step, says Livermore, will be determining how to “unfold” an existing piece of tissue to provide a template for the scaffold.

Source: Making Tomorrow Happen