Jello and cotton candy can help grow blood vessels 10 times thinner than hair

The regenerative medicine dream of being able to build new human organs from scratch — thereby bringing an end to transplant waiting lists — is serious, life-changing stuff.

So why are researchers from Vanderbilt University spending their time messing about with cotton candy and jello molds? Because, as it turns out, these tools may be our best shot at solving the problem.

One of the bottlenecks that exist with building functioning organs is that cells need to be roughly within a hair’s thickness of a blood vessel to get the nutrients that they need. Put them too far away from a supply of oxygenated blood and they will die. What this means is that if you want to build tissue that is thicker than a human hair, you need to build in artificial vasculature which can provide all the cells in a tissue with the nutrients and oxygen that they need.

The smallest blood vessels are called capillaries, fine branching blood vessels which make up a complex network between arterioles and venules. The size of a capillary? Around 10 times smaller than a human hair.

That is no good for 3D printing, which is often considered the answer for regenerative medicine thanks to the enormous possibilities of bioprinting. “3D printing certainly has its place for larger features, but I’m not aware of a 3D printing approach that’s able to produce features on the capillary scale in 3D,” Dr. Leon Bellan told Digital Trends.

What he and colleague Hak-Joon Sung have come up with is a novel method of “spinning” capillary-sized polymer fibers using a regular cotton candy machine.

“It turns out that if you take a cotton candy machine and spin fibers from it, that fibrous mesh contains three-dimensional fibers which are roughly 10 times thinner than a human hair,” Bellan continued. “It’s very hard to pattern something at that scale and with that complexity using a 3D printer.”

In terms of where the jello mold comes into play, Bellan said that the polymer fibers are next hardened in a jelly-like material called hydrogel and then dissolved away, leaving just the capillary-style chambers themselves for cells to grow around.

“Getting cotton candy inside hydrogel is somewhat difficult, but it’s important because it’s most similar to the natural cellular matrix that cells like to live in,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time working out how to put cotton candy inside of a jello mold. To do this, we now don’t make the cotton candy from sugar, but instead materials that don’t dissolve in hot water but only in cold water. By playing games with the temperature we were able to achieve our goal.”


Walmart is offering Google Home starter kits for under $50

If you're hoping to save big on Google Home devices before all the holiday deals come to an end, there's no better time than right now. Walmart is slashing prices on smart home starter kits for a limited time.

Changing file associations in Windows 10 is quick and easy with these steps

Learning how to change file associations can make editing certain file types much quicker than manually selecting your preferred application every time you open them. Just follow these short steps and you'll be on your way in no time.

Tired of paying? Here are 4 ways to use Microsoft Office for free

Many of us need to use Office apps from time to time -- but we may not want or need to pay for a constant subscription. Fortunately, there are ways to get those services without paying. Here's how to get Microsoft Office for free.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.