Pigs Bladder Football


This article was written on 19 Mar 2012, and is filled under 2012, 3D Forms, Lab, News.

new weekly blog posts….

This is the first of my new weekly dispatches from the UK Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Centre (Liverpool) where I am working as an artist in residence.  Tissue engineering is a field growing in importance: in 2006 the urinary bladder was the first organ to be successfully grown artificially in a laboratory and transplanted into a human patient and this kind of scientific breakthrough has huge implications for the future of medicine, potentially allowing cancerous tissue to be removed and replaced with a patients own healthy adult stem cells.

Beyond clinical treatments, the field of tissue engineering suggests many possibilities for new kinds of industrial application.  As an artist (and non-scientist) I am interested in unanticipated future uses of such technologies and through this work established scientific processes are instrumentalised toward an unlikely, playful and aesthetic goal.

Our “Pigs Bladder Football” project has a very specific, and non-clinical aim: to grow a football from living animal cells.  Our football will embody advanced 21st century biotechnological processes raising some interesting questions along the way such as: What are legitimate uses of living biological matter? and What new kinds of industry will make use of these materials?

Outlined already in previous short post are the various stages we will need to go through to cultivate the football – from the identification and isolation of cell materials (hopefully from pigs bladders obtained from a local abattoir) through to the growth of these cells on simple patch-like scaffolds and, ultimately, getting the cells to adhere to a 3D football like shape.

Today Theun helped me to begin work with a small DIY bioreactor (spinner flask).  It is basically a jar with a small wire attached to the lid for suspending our 3D test scaffolds.  A special device causes a magnetic element placed in the flask to spin at a constant rate, meaning that our cells can be kept in a dynamic state giving them more of a chance to adhere to the surface of the suspended patch materials.

Below is a simple demonstration of the spinner flask bio-reactor in action.  I am just getting to grips with using the camera in the lab but I hope to include more of these short insights as I go along.

Spinner Flask from John 0Shea on Vimeo.

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