Dr. Naresh Kasoju’s interview with Bio Patrika hosting “Vigyan Patrika”, a series of author interviews. Dr. Kasoju is a Scientist in Applied Biology from Biomedical Technology Wing, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (An Institute of National Importance, Dept. of Science and Technology, Govt. of India), Thiruvananthapuram, India. Earlier, he obtained Ph.D. from the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, India in 2012, followed by post-doctoral training from the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Prague, Czech Republic, Department of Zoology and Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. His research interests include fabrication of novel biomaterial structures, understanding cell-material interactions and development of tissue-engineered constructs.
How would you explain your paper’s key results to the non-scientific community?
Tissue engineering is a multidisciplinary field aiming to fabricate human tissue constructs in the laboratory. The process typically involves (a) development of a template material, referred as a scaffold, (b) isolation and culture of human cells on this scaffold and (c) in vitro maturation of cell-laden scaffold into a 3D tissue, which looks and acts like a true human tissue in the body. Here, the template material i.e. the scaffold is the key player. Typically, these scaffolds are made of materials that are compatible with human cells, termed as biomaterials. Even though tissue engineering started from the 1990s, and it made significant progress. However, fabricating a tissue that mimics native architecture remains one of the major challenges in the field.
In this project, we successfully fabricated spatially organized skin tissue constructs having epidermal and dermal equivalent histology. The core of the study was a novel dual cell seeding compatible insert clipped with electrospun nanofibrous silk fibroin scaffold (Figure 1). These inserts were designed to be versatile in terms of dimensions and functions. They can be flipped upside down and can be seeded with cells on either side to develop a co-cultured tissue. Adding to this, the inserts were designed so that the cell-laden scaffolds can be stacked in multiple numbers and conveniently packed in a container for storage as well as shipping purpose. Therefore, these inserts allow a continuous workflow to translate bioengineered co-cultured tissues from bench-to-bedside. The resultant tissue constructs can be explored as tissue substitutes or as models for drug and chemical screening applications.
What are the possible consequences of these findings for your research area?
There are commercial cell culture inserts available in the market which often used in cell culture. However, these inserts come with a pre-fixed membrane and used for single-cell culture but, the tissue engineers require an insert that allows the user to clip a customized scaffold and culture more than one type of cell. Our product stands out from the commercial items in many ways, and it can provide a continuous workflow from cell culture in the lab to its application on the wound site of the patient in the clinic. We believe this technology would expedite the co-cultured tissue engineering from bench-to-bedside.
What was the exciting moment (eureka moment) during your research?
As far as this particular project is concerned, the moment we found a problem with the regular inserts, we immediately started drawing various designs, and we made few prototypes. Though the design published in the paper was our favourite, we were sceptical since we can’t predict how cells would respond. We started wet lab work and we cultured human skin cells on it. Subsequently, the moment we saw the microscope images with well-organized skin-like tissue, we felt that eureka moment.
What do you hope to do next?
The published work is a mere proof of concept study showing the design of a dual cell seeding compatible insert and a method of fabricating co-cultured tissue constructs with it. We are working on this concept in multiple dimensions to explore the applications of the tissue-engineered constructs in transplantation, toxicological or drug screening applications. We are actively looking for academic partners to develop this technology further. We have filed an Indian patent application (number 201941053786) and an Indian design registration (number 324417-001) based on this study, and we are actively looking for industrial partners to make this technology a reality.
Where do you seek scientific inspiration?
Nature! – the most apparent answer from any biologist. Be it a flying butterfly or a stationary rock, everything has a story to tell. If we look at any living system in general or the human body in particular, it is such a gigantic system with an enormous number of biomolecules and networks of interaction amongst them, yet it does everything to perfection; It has an answer for any challenge* that you throw to it (*terms and conditions apply). I am fascinated by such an extraordinary creation of nature, and I always wonder can we ever truly mimic it, at least in part if not full!
How do you intend to help Indian science improve?
In the current education system, we are being encouraged to question nature and the natural phenomenon. But I feel, we must first appreciate nature and the natural phenomenon before questioning it. I mean to say that before asking why the sky is blue, we should, hey, look how beautiful the sky is! This could be possible by effective communication of nature and the natural phenomenon to the masses. There are a few platforms for such science communication in India, however, it is way too less for 135+ crores of the population in the country. Biopatrika is a great initiative, and I wish that it would achieve its aim of reaching the masses effectively. I am thankful to Biopatrika for this opportunity to share my piece of work with you all.
Jimna M Ameer, Ramesh Babu V, Vinod D, Nishad KV, Sabareeswaran A, Anil Kumar PR, Naresh Kasoju*. Fabrication of co-cultured tissue constructs using a dual cell seeding compatible cell culture insert with a clip-on scaffold for potential regenerative medicine and toxicological screening applications. Journal of Science: Advanced Materials and Devices 2020; 5(2): 207-217. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsamd.2020.04.004
Edited by: Govinda Raju Yedida (Volunteer, Bio Patrika)