Eating too much cotton candy isn't particularly good for your health — but cotton candy itself could provide a big breakthrough for medical technology.
Two researchers are trying to use cotton candy to create a network of vessels that could carry blood through artificial tissue. If successful, the synthetic tissue they create could be used in applications from skin grafts to breast reconstruction.
Dr. Jason Spector, a reconstructive surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Leon Bellan, then a graduate student at Cornell, teamed up to develop the idea.
The process involves taking a small piece of cotton candy and pouring a liquid polymer over it. After the polymer solidifies, the sugar is washed out, leaving behind a network of tiny channels.
Bellan came up with the idea to use cotton candy from his previous research with nanofibers. "The fibers that make up the cotton candy really are about the same size as the really small blood vessels within the tissues of our body," Spector says.
Though the research is in very early stages -– it's not even close to being tested on animals –- Spector says this technology has the potential to allow scientists to engineer much thicker tissue than ever before.
"Without a blood supply, cells will die," Spector says. "The key thing is to have a well-vascularized construct."