- Tell me about yourself and your research.
My name is Justin Burrell. I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Penn Dental Medicine and the School of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. I received my PhD in Bioengineering in 2021 and have a large amount of resources on neural tissue engineering and building three-dimensional scaffolds containing preformed cell and tissue structures that can be then transplanted in the body or used in vitro as a test of application.
- How did you come to know Visikol?
A few years ago, I think it was probably close to like 2015 or 2016, Michael reached out to my PI, and he had wanted us to test our three-dimensional tissue using the Visikol clearing product. We were definitely in the market. We were looking for a product, but our lab wasn’t a tissue clearing lab, so we were always hesitant about it until we found out there was a commercially available product (Visikol). On top of that, this commercially available product was also reversible. That was a huge bonus for us because we really liked the idea of seeing our tissue in space, in three-dimensional space, and then also being able to reverse it and section it to get more specific details about the nature of this issue.
- Can you elaborate a little more on what it is you do in your lab?
You know cell therapies are pretty cutting edge, and we are talking about them a lot. They transplant cells into a place in the body and effectively hope that those cells survive and hope that those cells form the structure and architecture that you’re missing. That might work for some organ systems, like heart or muscle or other organs, because it’s all one location, right?
Axons (nerves) basically provide the neurons and axons that have to innervate a target, but neurons and axons can be very, very, very long. For example, the neurons in your spinal cord extend all the way from your lower back to your feet in order to move your feet – so there’s one long continuous axon, or many continuous long axons.
So the question is, if you just transplant cells by themselves, will they re-form their architecture? Most likely not. Your cells are usually transplanted in solution, and what we do is we take these cells, and we provide some kind of biomaterial structural support that allows them to regain their physiological architecture. Then when we grow them in vitro, they mature as a tissue and we’re able to transplant it into the body. Re-establishing that three-dimensional architecture is super important for us….That’s why we went to Michael, and we were like, “Hey, we want to know what’s going on in three-dimensional space, ” and he said, “Try our product.” – and sure enough, we were able to get a lot of good information.
- What Visikol products do you use in your lab? How do you use them?
We use Viskol’s products largely after our studies are done and we’re now trying to investigate if our tissues survived and what is it actually doing in the body – that’s when we employ the Visikol clearing technique. We use HISTO-1 and HISTO-2 in order to optically clear the tissue and allow us to image it using our microscopes. We’re looking to make sure the tissues survive and then integrate with the body.
- What is your favorite thing about working with Visikol?
Oh good question…I have always liked how available your team is, and I like the camaraderie there. Whenever I have a problem, I always get connected with the right person. Whether it’s for the clearing aspect, or when I was working on microscope problems with some cleared tissue, it was really useful to kind of get insights from your team. I like that it’s small and “built from the ground up”, and you guys are doing a lot of amazing CRO work. It’s really interesting how that all works, and I know from a commercialization standpoint, it’s pretty cool.
Thank you, Justin, for your time and sharing insight into your research! If you would like to learn more about what Visikol can do for your own research, don’t hesitate to reach out today.