Czech nano research key to breakthrough in tissue production

A breakthrough in nanotechnology is on the horizon and it is being led by Czech scientists. A project called Nanoprogres is bringing together 16 companies and research institutions to create a commercial device that would put nanofibres to a range of medical uses: creating and renewing cell tissue and healing wounds such as burns or damaged ligaments. Earlier today I spoke with the head of the department of tissue engineering at the Institute of Experimental Medicine, Evžen Amler, to find out more.

“Nanoprogres is actually a consortium of about 16 companies and scientific institutions. The aim is to bring their efforts and results together to produce something that would be available for the biomedical market, especially as far as the drug delivery system is concerned. Everything is based on a novel machine, or equipment, producing core-shell nanofibres, and they are produced in a quantity which is already high enough to leave the laboratory space.”

And in your work with nanofibres we’re talking about tissue production...

“Yes, because nanofibres are an excellent tool for tissue engineering. The diameter of the fibres in the extra-cellular matrix are in nanometres, so nanofibres are an excellent scaffold – or can create an excellent scaffold – for cells. And therefore, we can create artificial tissues, from cartilage to skin, and even heart tissue.”

Nanotechnology is already being used in some ways for tissue reproduction, so how does this differ from methods that are already in use?

“Well the main advantage is the drug delivery system. We have a special system which keeps proteins intact in the tissue, or in the scaffold, and in that way we can bring something to the tissue that we cannot do now. We have tried to use nanofibres as a drug delivery system in which the drugs were dissolved, but in such cases we cannot keep the proteins intact, and that is the advantage of this system.

“The second advantage is the prolonged effect. So far we have not had such a long-lasting effect, so the release of the drugs is prolonged.”

How close are you to achieving this?

“Well, we are already in preclinical trials, so we are already doing trials on miniature pigs and the first results are very promising. So that is why we have started to organise this group, or cluster, in which we would like to accelerate the transfer of nanotechnologies onto the market.

The Czech Republic has a very strong position in nanotechnology research; I guess you have been able to draw heavily from a good pool of scientists within the country. Are there also foreigners working on this?

“You are completely right. But of course this is an international project; there are several foreigners even in my team. Basically the majority of us are Czechs. We started this project only six years ago, so it’s a very quickly-developing project, and we started with local students.”