Veterinarians at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have created a tiny animal that they say is capable of healing from a variety of wounds, including burns and infections.
The animal, named Bella, has the potential to save lives.
“We’re using Bella as a test bed for the use of an ion beam to clean wounds in a person,” said Dr. Jennifer A. O’Neill, associate professor of veterinary medicine and of bioengineering at UNC and one of the authors of a study published online this week in the journal Science.
“We hope Bella can help us understand how we can make that process more efficient.”
Scientists have known for years that tissue-cultured meat from cattle or other animals can help heal wounds and promote healthy tissue growth.
But until now, no one had been able to demonstrate that the animals were able to do it.
Owing to the time it takes to make a tissue sample, scientists have struggled to replicate the healing effects of tissues from other animals.
Researchers had previously used cells from animals such as rabbits, chickens and goats to grow tissue samples.
But when the cells were grown in a laboratory setting, they were not able to produce the healing effect that they needed to test for.
“A number of studies have shown that tissue from animal sources is able to promote healing, but it is still not clear whether the same effect can be obtained from cells grown in vitro,” O’Neil said.
In their latest study, O’Nell and her colleagues developed a tissue-based cell line that can grow and differentiate into the desired cells that can then be cultured in vitro.
The researchers then isolated the cells and implanted them into the skin of a sheep named Bella.
“It was a real eye opener to us that we could create cells that would produce the same type of cell growth that we can in vivo,” O.N.O.
The scientists cultured Bella’s skin cells for four days and then tested them in the laboratory to see if the animals would respond to the treatment.
“She didn’t react the way we expected,” O-N.
“I could tell that she had been wounded.
But we couldn’t tell whether that was from trauma or from bacteria or other factors.”
After the four days of treatment, the animals regained their ability to heal wounds from the wound on their bodies.
N said that the results were impressive and that she was excited about the possibility of her team’s technology being used in human therapies.
“This work is an important step forward in our quest to create an animal model for human regenerative medicine,” she said.
A’N said they have yet to determine how Bella will be able to treat her wounds, but she said she hopes to use the technique in human patients who have damaged skin or have undergone a procedure that may have caused skin damage.
The animals are still in the testing phase, but O’Ns research has already been successful in growing tissue from animals in the lab.
“If we are successful in creating cells that are safe and able to differentiate into viable tissues, it would open up a whole new field of research,” she added.