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Building the Building Blocks

April 2002

Image of the scaffold

The scaffold is made from several different materials, depending on the type of cells doctors need to grow. The most popular material is a biodegradable polymer. These "plastics" gradually dissolve in the body as new tissue develops and no longer needs support. Biomedical engineers also build the scaffolds out of hydroxyapatite, which is a mineral present in bone, or collagen, which is a material that makes up skin.

Scientists impregnate the scaffold with cells. The choice of cells depends on the tissue to be regenerated - osteoblasts for bone, chondrocytes for cartilage and endothelial cells for blood vessels.

Placing new cells in the scaffold
Scaffold filled with new cells

The cells rapidly multiply and begin to form new tissue, blood vessels or bone. The scaffold serves as a support structure for the cells and dissolves gradually as the cells produce tissue.

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Updated 12/11/14