When asked to imagine a scientist at work, some people will envision a spectacled person in a lab coat behind a collection of beakers. On the same table as those beakers, some may envision several petri dishes containing all kinds of microorganisms. Now researchers at the Vienna University of Technology are looking to move past the flat petri dish by constructing 3D nanostructures for the study of cells and tissues.
Many cells are strongly affected by their surroundings, including some stem cells which will develop into different kinds of cells depending on the surface they are on. That dependence on the environment for so many cell types is why the researchers have received a grant to develop a method to easily produce nanostructures with specific properties. Their plan is to start by suspending the cells to be studied in a special liquid. This liquid will not harm the cells but can be converted to a firm polymer when exposed to the focus of a laser, so by moving a laser through the solution, the nanostructure for the cells to grow on can be constructed.
Such a nanostructure should prove useful in many ways as it will not only allow scientists to expose cells to a variety of environments, but also keep it in one similar to what it prefers. Potentially that could allow for drug testing to be done completely within a lab, instead of with living creatures.
Source: Vienna University of Technology