Sugar byproducts boost tissue engineering

Published online: May 31, 2014
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By using byproducts of the sugar industry, an LSU engineering science graduate student is working to provide biodegradable scaffolds for use in tissue engineering.

Akanksha Kanitkar, a graduate assistant studying under Giovanna Aita at the LSU AgCenter Audubon Sugar Institute, has created skin and bone tissue scaffolds from aconitic acid, cinnamic acid and glycerol—all byproducts of sugarcane processing—as part of her dissertation studies.

Scaffolds are structures scientists use to create new tissues.

"We first extract the acids—aconitic acid from the molasses and cinnamic acid from pretreated biomass," Kanitkar said. "Then, we synthesize polymers of different compositions. We are looking for polymers that are safe to use, are nontoxic and also are biodegradable. Once we determine the appropriate polymers to use, we can use them as scaffolds for a specific application."

Polymers can be natural or synthetic materials. The polymers used in tissue engineering should be biodegradable among other important characteristics.

The idea is to find polymers that will gradually degrade, Kanitkar said. These biodegradable polymers are then used to create scaffolds that can be inoculated with stem cells to grow bone, organs and skin tissues.