This research addresses the need for innovative bioreactor design. Bioreactors are laboratory systems that precisely control mechanical forces and environmental conditions on biologically changing tissues for periods of several hours to many days. Some bioreactors can also measure mechanical response of the living tissues during incubation. The ear, the voice, and the skin are exposed to vibrations throughout life. Approximately 28 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, the nation's 4 million teachers are 32 times more likely to suffer from voice problems than other professionals, and tens of thousands suffer injuries from repetitive motion exposure. In contrast, mounting evidence suggests beneficial effects of vibration for building bone and muscle tissue and as a positive neuropharmacological therapeutic technique for reducing pain. The underlying hypothesis is that conditioning engineered tissues at quantifiable physiologic vibrations will improve their functionality when transplanted into patients. This new bioreactor targets a rather difficult frequency range of 10 - 10000 Hz at amplitudes from millimeters to nanometers that are physiologically relevant to vocalization, hearing, and skin vibration. It incorporates high precision technology of a stress controlled electromagnetic and piezoelectric rheometer for both vibration delivery and linear viscoelastic measurement of tissues in the frequency range of 0.01 - 2000 Hz.
TO PUBLIC HEALTH: Millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss, voice problems or repetitive motion injuries. Conditioning engineered tissues at sonic physiologic vibrations is believed to improve their functionality when transplanted into patients. Instruments called bioreactors, uniquely designed for the purpose of growing ear, voice and skin tissues, exposing the tissues to vibration, and quantifying their mechanical response, are needed to investigate the potential public health benefits of such treatment.
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