From hoarding toilet paper to everyone and their mothers making bread at home, humans have indulged themselves in numerous questionable activities amid the pandemic. Taking inspiration from the latter, a team of scientists is now using bread as a scaffold for growing cells.
Scientists all around are trying to grow living tissues and organs outside the body, commonly by "seeding" a scaffold, which is typically made from the protein collagen, with cells. If this technique of using bread proves to be viable for use, it could drive down the cost of medical treatments.
The study was published on the preprint server BioRxiv.
Irish soda bread
The team tried several different breads to find out what worked best with the cells. "It seemed like a fitting project for these times," Andrew Pelling, lead author and University of Ottawa researcher, told New Scientist.
Irish soda bread was the clear winner among a sea of "soggy mess." Once they baked the soda bread, sterilized it with alcohol, and chemically treated it to strengthen its structure, they were able to get human muscle, skin, and bone cells to cling on and reproduce.
This way, they were able to develop and validate this yeast-free "soda bread" and maintain its mechanical stability over two weeks in culture conditions.
An interesting alternative
Bread derived scaffolds are "highly scalable", scientists wrote. They represent an alternative to synthetic or animal-derived scaffolds.
The scaffolding is highly porous, too. This provides the 3D proliferation of multiple cell types relevant to both biomedical tissue engineering and the development of future foods. However, the scientists don't know yet whether these cells that grow on bread can be useful to lab-grown meat manufacturers or clinicians.
"While there are still many studies needed to determine if bread is a viable scaffold," Worcester Polytechnic Institute researcher Glenn Gaudette, who didn’t work on the study, told New Scientist, "this innovative thinking by Pelling can help push the field in new directions."