Right Turn: Sugary solution to scientific pickle

Author: Stacey Johnson, 02/26/16

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.)



Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
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