Whether you call it cotton candy, candy floss or the original name for it “fairy floss,” I’m going to assume you’ve never called it “a tool for creating artificial blood vessels.” (Too long and not very appetizing.)
Nevertheless, Dr. Leon Bellan, Vanderbilt University, is using it in exactly that way as a solution for making blood vessels in sufficient quantities to keep engineered tissues and organs alive. (His bio says he developed the “sacrificial cotton candy technique” while working as a postdoc in the lab of Professor Robert Langer at MIT. More on Dr. Langer here and here.)
Dr. Bellan and his lab are using cotton candy to make artificial capillaries for lab-grown organs that need a network of blood vessels to conduct oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the organoids. Otherwise, cells in the centre will die because nutrients can’t reach them. So far, the endothelial cells that he and his team are growing have been able to survive for over a week.
Vanderbilt University has produced a wonderful video that explains Dr. Bellan’s work and how his unusual solution to an important problem has potential for tissue engineering.
After watching this video, you’ll never see cotton candy the same way. (Just as well as it’s still bad for your teeth.)
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