Lawrence Livermore scientists use carbon nanotubes for tissue healing

(Download Image) Lawrence Livermore scientists Nicole Collette (front) and Gaby Loots examine histological sections of cells in which carbon nanotubes were used for tissue healing and repair. Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

Lawrence Livermore scientists have found that carbon nanotubes can help with tissue healing and repair.

The team, which includes scientists from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, UC Davis and UC Merced, found that there is long-term biocompatibility of single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) when used for tissue engineering and articular cartilage.

Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical nanostructures of carbon that can be used in myriad applications from biology to optics to material science.

The team hypothesized that a suitably treated SWNT nanocomposite matrix would provide an improved substrate for chondrocyte growth and cartilage production. Chondrocytes are the cells for producing and maintaining healthy cartilage.

Their results indicated that chondrocytes tolerate functionalized SWNTs well, with minimal evidence for cell toxicity. The biomechanical properties of tissues containing SWNTs that were treated so their surfaces were covered with carboxyl molecular groups were improved relative to control tissues.

The results of the study suggest that SWNTs exhibit a unique potential for cartilage tissue engineering, where functionalization with bioactive molecules could provide an improved substrate for stimulation of cellular growth and repair. More studies are needed to determine if these properties are maintained, in vivo, but these encouraging results provide hope that  nano-based substrates can be further developed and may in the future provide alternative approaches for treating osteoarthritis and other cartilage defects in humans, said Gabriella Loots, one of the LLNL authors.

The team was led by former Lawrence Fellow Nadeen Chahine and includes current LLNL scientists Loots and Nicole Collette and former LLNL scientist Cynthia Thomas.

The work wasfunded by the Lawrence Fellowship and the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program.

The research appears in the journal Tissue Engineering Part A.