How Cool is This?...Cotton Candy's Role in Science

There's such an incredible amount of dross out there that many good ideas don't reach the wide audience they deserve. Hence this occasional series, "How Cool Is This?"

Exhibit 1: Associated Press story below about an unexpectedly serious use for an unquestionably fun thing...cotton candy.

Cotton candy may help labs grow tissue

NEW YORK - Cotton candy may have found a new role: helping scientists grow replacement tissue for people.

The flossy stuff may be just right for creating networks of blood vessels within laboratory-grown bone, skin, muscle, or fat for breast reconstruction, researchers suggest. Dr. Jason Spector of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York and Leon Bellan of Cornell University present their preliminary research online this week in the journal Soft Matter.

Here's how their technique would work: First, you pour a thick liquid chemical over a wad of cotton candy. Let the liquid solidify into a chunk, and put that in warm water to dissolve the candy. That leaves tiny channels where the strands of candy used to be. So you have a chunk of material with a network of fine channels within. Next, line these channels with cells to create artificial blood vessels. And seed the solid chunk with immature cells of whatever tissue you're trying to make. The block is biodegradable, and as it disappears, it will be replaced by growing tissue.

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