Optimizing Cell Culture Environments: Investigating Diffusive Properties of Granular Hydrogel Microfluidic Systems

Bui, Thuy-vi, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Stafford, William, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, University of Virginia
Highley, Chris, EN-Biomed Engr Dept, University of Virginia

The technical report details the development and analysis of a granular hydrogel microfluidic device designed to emulate and study microvascular networks, providing critical insights into the diffusive properties essential for tissue engineering applications. This device, which aims to mimic the complex microenvironment of human tissues, holds significant promise for advancing our understanding of how nutrients and waste are exchanged at the cellular level within engineered tissue constructs. By optimizing the design and functionality of such devices, researchers can obtain valuable data that could lead to more effective strategies in tissue regeneration and repair.
Expanding on this, the STS (Science, Technology, and Society) research paper delves into the ethical dimensions of engineering and medical innovations, with a particular focus on the creation and implementation of artificial organs and regenerative therapies. This discussion is contextualized within a pressing global need, highlighted by the fact that over 100,000 individuals are currently awaiting organ transplants. The scarcity of available organs and the often prolonged waiting periods underscore the critical importance and potential impact of advancements in artificial organs and regenerative medicine, not only as life-saving interventions but also as pivotal areas for ethical consideration in biomedical engineering. The paper presents a dual focus: firstly, it explores the historical context of biomedical advancements and their ethical implications, with particular attention given to past failures such as those seen in companies like Theranos and incidents like the thalidomide tragedy. Secondly, it emphasizes the ongoing responsibilities of engineers and scientists to prioritize patient welfare over commercial interests, a principle that remains crucial in the absence of comprehensive regulations specifically targeting the emerging field of artificial organs.
The narrative arc of the paper weaves through the cautionary tales of Theranos and thalidomide, serving as potent reminders of the dire consequences when ethical guidelines are sidestepped or ignored. Theranos, under the leadership of Elizabeth Holmes, became infamous for its false claims and subsequent regulatory violations, highlighting the dangers of prioritizing corporate success over scientific integrity and patient safety. The thalidomide case, on the other hand, offers a historical example of inadequate drug testing protocols leading to catastrophic results, thereby underscoring the necessity for rigorous regulatory oversight.
Both cases contribute to the paper's argument that current and future developments in artificial organs and regenerative medicine must be guided by a robust ethical framework that ensures patient safety and efficacy of medical innovations. The paper suggests that the absence of specific regulatory frameworks for these technologies should not be an excuse for ethical lapses but rather a call to action for the industry to develop internal standards and protocols that safeguard patient interests.
In conclusion, the research paper serves as a comprehensive examination of the ethical dimensions of biomedical engineering, particularly in the context of artificial organs and regenerative therapies. It calls for a balanced approach that respects both the innovative potential of these technologies and the ethical obligations to the patients they aim to serve. This synthesis serves as a reminder of the enduring importance of ethical considerations in the rapidly evolving field of biomedical engineering, urging ongoing vigilance to prevent past mistakes from repeating in the future.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Vasculature, Effective Diffusivity, Hydrogel, Ethics, Artificial Organs
Sponsoring Agency:
National Institute of Health

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Chris Highley
STS Advisor: Travis Elliott, William Stafford
Technical Team Member: Emily Swanekamp

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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