Read time: 3 minutes

VUT staff learn to regenerate tissue using fat cells

Three staff members: Nolutho Mkhumbeni, Unisa Terblanche and Professor Michael Pillay, from the Departments of Biotechnology and Biomedical Technology, visited Colorado State University (CSU) from 1 February till 15 March to learn more about turning human fat cells into other types of cells needed for treatment.

The trio was sent to learn new techniques used in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and transfer these techniques to our laboratory at VUT as part of an academic programme sponsored by the University's Research Directorate.

Tissue engineering is a promising alternative to treat or replace any tissue or organ, hence the name regenerative medicine. It is now becoming possible to use a person's fat cells and convert them to any other type of cell, such as bone, cartilage or skin. These cells could be used to treat the person without the danger of cell or tissue rejection.

The staff members were hosted by Professor Ketul Popat and Dr David Prawel at CSU, who either singly or collectively have been visiting VUT since 2011, providing lectures on tissue engineering.

In addition to researching how to convert adipose (fat) derived stem cells to bone tissue and culturing fibroblasts on special 3D printed polyethylene scaffolds, the team also learned how to synthesise scaffolds. Scaffolds are temporary biocompatible materials on which cells can grow to form new organs. This research will play a major role in bone and skin regeneration.

The researchers have returned with new knowledge not only to boost their own research, but promote and encourage master and doctoral students in the department.