Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

Posts tagged ‘Nature Biotechnology’

Regular blog readers will know I think tissue engineering is an exciting area where you can see innovation in action – advances in basic science can translate into ways to artificially create replacement organs and body parts.

Research published online 22 July 2012 in Nature Biotechnology by Janna Nawroth and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Harvard University, shows how biomedical engineers are learning from the structure and function of other animals.

In a Nature Biotechnology article titled “a tissue-engineered jellyfish with biomimetic propulsion” researchers describe how they were able to combine rat cardiac muscle cells and a synthetic elastomer membrane into a medusoid like structure that mimicked the propulsion of a jellyfish.

Credit: Caltech and Harvard University

They achieved this by forming the elastomer into a medusoid or jellyfish like shape with eight lobes around a central disc, then applying a monolayer of rat cardiac muscle tissue, which when electrically shocked, contracted in a synchronized way.

The net result was the medusoid “swam” in a similar way to a jellyfish. They effectively developed an artificial pump made out of a hybrid of living cells and silicone rubber.

The video below by Janna Nawroth, produced by Caltech and Harvard University, shows the medusoid in action, and explains how this research advances the design of muscular pumps for biomedical application:

According to the Caltech press release, this approach in reverse-engineering the function of a jellyfish “will be broadly applicable to the reverse engineering of muscular organs in humans.” 

While we are not yet able to tissue engineer a replacement human heart, it’s hard not to believe that at some point in the future we will see the development of hybrid devices that combine synthetic materials and cultured heart muscle cells.


ResearchBlogging.orgJanna C Nawroth, Hyungsuk Lee, Adam W Feinberg, Crystal M Ripplinger, Megan L McCain, Anna Grosberg, John O Dabiri, & Kevin Kit Parker (2012). A tissue-engineered jellyfish with biomimetic propulsion Nature Biotechnology, 30, 792-797 DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2269

The findings from a telephone survey of 3001 adults show that social media and the internet are increasingly important for finding health information.

This has important implications for the marketing professionals in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries who struggle to come to grips with social media in the absence of any FDA guidance.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project published today their survey on “The Social Life of Health Information, 2011.”  It makes for interesting reading.  Some of the statistics I found of interest, relating to the United States, include:

  • 74% of adults use the internet
  • 59% of adults (80% of internet users) have looked for online health information around a disease or major health topic
  • 25% of adults (34% of internet users) have read someone else’s commentary or experience about a health issue on an online news group, website or blog
  • 19% of adults (25% of internet users) have watched an online video about health or medical topics (See my previous post on using social media such as video to recruit for clinical trials)
  • 13% of adults (18% of internet users) have consulted online reviews of particular drugs or medical treatments

As this insightful report notes, “people use online social tools to gather information, share stories, and discuss concerns.”

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will have to come to terms with addressing the increasing desire of patients for information, presented in a way that is fair balanced and non-promotional.

The power of social media to potentially change the paradigm of how medical data is gathered was also highlighted in the recent paper published in Nature Biotechnology.

This paper presented an analysis of data collected on the website PatientsLikeMe for those suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  While such data will never replace a randomized, blinded drug study, I think that patient community data could have a role to play in areas around Quality of Life (QoL) assessments and post-marketing surveillance.

Increased fast internet access is driving social media and the demand for quality health information.  This trend is only set to continue.

ResearchBlogging.orgWicks, P., Vaughan, T., Massagli, M., & Heywood, J. (2011). Accelerated clinical discovery using self-reported patient data collected online and a patient-matching algorithm Nature Biotechnology, 29 (5), 411-414 DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1837

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