Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

JUN15 2018

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) is the world's most widely read biotech publication. It provides the R&D community with critical information on the tools, technologies, and trends that drive the biotech industry.

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Page 12 of 37 | Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | JUNE 15, 2018 | 11 we can apply enough light that they will con- tract and never relax." Tissue Engineering Application That same technique could be used to improve tissue engineering, according to Dr. Savtchenko. The discovery of human- derived, induced pluripotent stems cells has raised the possibility of growing replacement tissues for damaged organs from cells taken from a patient's own body, he says, but many tissues, including heart and muscle cells, need to be active in order to grow well. Opti- cally stimulated graphene provides a way to train those tissues in vitro. "We are going to pretty much subject them to a boot camp," Dr. Savtchenko says. Further in the future, he sees the possibil- ity of using graphene's light to charge prop- erties to address certain diseases of the eye, such as retinitis pigmentosa, where implant- ed graphene could substitute for the loss of photoreceptive cells in the retina. Dr. MacRae even sees potential uses for graphene that could extend beyond medi- cine, such as in the lab-grown meat indus- try, where the ability to contract muscle tissues could give products a more realis- tic texture. "Maybe the first applications for this is completely outside biology," he says. "Maybe it's an implantable payment system? Who knows what it is. There's just lots of ways something like this could be re- ally useful." But Dr. MacRae also says it's important not to get too far ahead of the basic research and to keep in mind that not every new tech- nology proves better than existing clinical interventions. Dr. Savtchenko's team, for ex- ample, is interested in using graphene as an optically controlled pacemaker, and as part of their study, they successfully used injected graphene flakes to pace the hearts of zebraf- ish embryos. But traditional pace-making technology today is so good, Dr. MacRae says, that the level of reliability Dr. Savtchenko's team demonstrated in their study "would never make it past the first preclinical study with a modern pacemaker." Dr. MacRae also suggests cautious opti- mism around the apparent non-toxicity of graphene to the human body, which could make rejection and scarring less likely with implanted devices such as pacemakers. While there is no evidence graphene in- terfaces are toxic right now, he says, "it's also not the first time people thought there would be zero toxicity and there ended up being some." It's true that carbon is abundant in the hu- man body, but structure and electrical prop- erties also matter, he points out. Diamonds are pure carbon, "but you get a foreign body reaction to diamonds and nobody quite un- derstands why." But that's not to say Dr. MacRae isn't ex- cited about the implications of Dr. Savtch- enko's team's work, especially in the grow- ing field of electrobiology research, which seeks to understand the way information is encoded in biology and how to modulate that information. It's a field that requires thinking outside the traditional constraints of biomedicine. "The things that we thought were out- side medicine or outside biology before, now we realize they are an integral part," Dr. MacRae says. "We need to think about the interfaces and the interactions between different fields much more. This is a physi- cal manifestation of the interaction between physics, chemistry, and biology. That may be the take-home point right there." YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT... SO DON'T ACT LIKE ONE FREE YOURSELF FROM ROUTINE PIPETTING Making hands-free serial dilutions, reagent additions and sample reformatting very affordable for every lab. Compatible with all Integra's electronic pipettes from 4 to 16 channels for consistent results and unbeatable ergonomics. VOYAGER - Adjustable Tip Spacing Pipettes VIAFLO - Electronic Pipettes ASSIST PLUS Automating Multichannel Pipettes Drug Discovery " We need to think about the interfaces and the interactions between different fields much more. This is a physical manifestation of the interaction between physics, chemistry, and biology. That may be the take-home point right there." — Calum MacRae, M.D., Ph.D.

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