Making Cells Dance - Acoustic Tissue Engineering

James Armstrong

Research Fellow

Imperial College London (UK)

#53 Under the Microscope | Making Cells DancePranoti | James
00:00 / 06:41
#54 Under the Microscope | Making Cells DancePranoti | James
00:00 / 14:52

Please explain your research in simple words

I'm a tissue engineer - which means I use cells, materials and chemicals to grow artificial tissues in laboratory that can potentially be used to replace damaged or diseased tissues. The big problem that I'm trying to address is how to recreate the structure of natural tissues.
To do this, I've been developing a new technique that uses sound waves to remotely organise cells into their natural configuration - which I've been using to generate muscle tissue with aligned cells and fibres.

Sunday - Who am I?
Monday - Painting cells for tissue engineering
Tuesday - Using magnets for tissue engineering
Wednesday - Using sound for tissue engineering
Thursday - Using sound to build materials
Friday - 3D printing tissues
Saturday - Online seminars in 2020

What can the followers expect in your curation week?

How did you end up in your current research field?

Accidentally! I trained as a chemist then took on a doctoral training centre PhD at the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials. In this programme I ended up doing a PhD in cartilage tissue engineering but the exposure to nanoscience allowed me to learn about really interesting techniques such as optical and acoustic trapping, which I have now taken and applied to my current tissue engineering research. For me, this shows the importance of a flexible career path and interdisciplinary science.

I apply techniques that are commonly used in nanoscience – such as acoustic trapping, magnetic nanoparticles – to the world of biology. My use of materials is more pragmatic – I typically use hydrogels to immobilize my patterned arrays of cells and nanoparticles so that I can use these to grow tissues.

How and where does your research fall in the domain of materials/nano science?

Which research project are you most proud of and could you explain it in simple words in the section we call #InOtherwords?

I'm most proud of a paper published this year in Advanced Materials by my student Valeria, where we use sound waves to activate enzymes and assemble fibrinogen gels. This has never done before and has so much potential for medical and industrial applications.

I contribute to the Advanced Tissue Engineering Module, a fourth year course for bioengineers at Imperial College

If you teach, which are the courses would you like to mention?

If you had 3 wishes to improve your research experience, what would you ask for (not promising anything here!)?

1. Improved awareness of mental health.

2. Improved diversity.

3. People to not to get hung up on the question "why is that useful?" - basic research is important too!

Labs reopening? I have a super exciting collaboration with the Sanger Institute that we were just about to finish when lockdown happened. If the coronavirus situation is under control, it will be great to get back in the lab and finish that project off.

What are you most looking forward to in the next 3 months?

Which challenges/questions is the nano/materials science field facing at the moment?

The field is thriving! I think there are more general challenges surrounding the way that we do research, and the across all fields, we need for better support mechanisms to support mental health in science. This has to be an absolute top priority - no scientific advance is worth compromising the wellbeing of any scientist.

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