Arnav Chhabra, Edward Kah Wei Tan, Keval Vyas, Girish Rughoobur, Sangeeta N. Bhatia
Blood vessels play an important role in the development of tumors. Angiogenesis, or the process by which new blood vessels form, is critical in the growth of cancer because solid tumors need a blood supply if they are to grow beyond a few millimeters in size. Tumors can actually cause this blood supply to form by giving off chemical signals that stimulate angiogenesis.
Just like cancer cells give off chemical signals to recruit blood vessels, we learned that we can simulate the same response using an unexpected trigger: electrical fields! When cells surrounding blood vessels are stimulated using electrical fields, they give off chemical signals to recruit new blood vessels. Instead of cancer using this phenomenon to sustain a tumor, we repurposed it to fabricate new blood vessels in engineered mini-organs that can be transplanted.
In these images of our engineered mini-organs, you can see the cells lining the blood vessels (red) and how they create an efficient transport network surrounding liver cells (cyan). This efficient network of blood vessels is a result of electrical stimulation.