Bioelasticity: How Scientists Heal and Repair the Body Using its Elastic Properties

Posted on March 1, 2018

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Bioelasticity is the measure of stretchability of our body’s tissues and organs. And it is leading a wave of promising biological and medical research.

Elastic body

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Elastic fibres are present everywhere in the body and help us with vital activities including breathing and eating. Pinch your skin and, depending on your age, it will snap back quickly or more slowly. After the age of 20 our ‘elastic capital’ is gradually depleted.

The malfunction or depletion of elasticity fuels a range of illnesses: everything from heart failure to blindness or aneurysms in the brain. Researchers are now discovering the mysteries of more than 30 different proteins – elastin, fibrillin etc – to protect our health.

Elastin is a key protein that regulates elastic properties in tissue. The rare disease cutis laxa is a ‘premature ageing’ syndrome that affects children. At age 18 their skin can be the same as that of an 80-year-old.

Studies of elasticity have resulted in the development of artificial skin to tackle the problem.

Helpful Bacteria

Scientists in France have also primed E.coli bacteria with a synthetic gene to harvest an elastin analogue. This method could also be used to create elastic biomaterials used as bio-inks in 3D printing cartilage.

It could imitate nose cartilage in surgery or help treat cardiovascular disease by improving elasticity in blood vessels.

Other investigations are looking at ‘bioglue’ to heal wounds in vital organs, or treat vocal chord injury and disease. But the most obvious place for elasticity is in bones and skin.

Biomechanics experts are increasingly looking to use elastin hydrogels for artificial skin and to heal fractures. Advanced developments will require physicists, biologists and biomechanics experts to work together. Then we will see ‘elastic human’ theories made into effective treatments.

More information on Bioelasticity is available from France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)