Artificial tissues which mimic living cells

A University of Plymouth researcher who specialises in the development and assessment of new antibiotics and antimicrobials is using engineered 3D tissue created by a colleague to replace the need for the use of animals. 

Dr Vehid Salih has developed 3D cultures for the creation of ‘artificial’ tissues which mimic living cells and which can be created over and over again for use in a wide range of research – from oral cancer to the development of new antibiotics and a better understanding of how antibiotic resistance develops.

Professor Mathew Upton and his team will be using cell-tissue constructs created by Dr Vehid Salih to assess the role of antimicrobial peptides (amino acids linked in a chain) in regulating the immune system.

Living cells are a necessity for this research. As well as providing a valid alternative to the use of animals, Dr Salih’s cell cultures are also able to be reproduced in a standard way and in quantity, can mimic how cells would react in different environments and can be ‘programmed’ to show changes in gene expression and cell behaviour.

Said Dr Salih: 

“Tissue engineering has been around for about 30 years. While we are not where the original pioneers would want us to be, creating new limbs for example, at a cellular level 3D tissue engineering is providing scientists with a readily available, high quality and standardised substitute to the need to use tissue from animals.” 
He added: 

“The work we are doing with Mat in the world of antibiotics is just one example of how we are using this technology at University of Plymouth. Colleagues are engaging with 3D tissue technology to investigate oral cancer and to mimic such tumours in vitro – adding greatly to our knowledge about the genesis and development of oral cancer.” 
Professor Upton added: 

“This sort of technology gives us access to an almost inexhaustible supply of cellular tissue which can be ‘pre-programmed’ to meet our research needs exactly. Not only does this give us a valid alternative to using animals, in many cases it provides us with a better standard of alternative. To be able to draw on the expertise of colleagues in the same university is not only convenient; it also gives us immense opportunity to really develop our research themes cost-effectively and efficiently.” 
The team involved with this research includes: Professor Mathew Upton, Dr Vehid Salih, Dr Louise Belfield and PhD student Samantha Gould.