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WIREs Syst Biol Med
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Engineered tissue grafts: opportunities and challenges in regenerative medicine

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The human body has limited regenerative capacity in most of the major tissues and organs. This fact has spurred the field of regenerative medicine, promising to repair damage following traumatic injury or disease. Multiple therapeutic strategies are being explored including small molecules, gene delivery, and stem cells; however, tissue engineering remains a primary approach to achieving regeneration. Organ transplantation demonstrates that damaged tissues can be replaced, but technology to regenerate complex organs de novo is not yet available. Instead, tissue engineering can augment the body's own regenerative ability by replacing tissue sections and enhancing the regenerative cascade. As a consequence of these opportunities, it is timely to review the criteria and current status of engineered tissue grafts designed as patches to replace or regenerate damaged or diseased tissue and restore organ function. This topic will be explored starting from the biomaterials and cells incorporated into the engineered graft, the environment into which the graft is implanted and the integration of the engineered graft with the host. Common issues will be addressed that are relevant to regeneration in multiple tissue and organ systems. Specific examples will focus on engineered grafts for myocardial and corneal repair to illustrate the tissue‐specific challenges and opportunities and highlight the innovation needed as the field moves forward. WIREs Syst Biol Med 2012, 4:207–220. doi: 10.1002/wsbm.164

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Figure 1.

Schematic of the basic approach used to create an engineered tissue graft for regenerative medicine applications. Briefly, a biomaterial scaffold is seeded with cells and placed into a bioreactor to stimulate differentiation, maturation, and growth of the cells into a functional construct. Ideally, a combination of contractility, electrophysiology, gene expression, and structure are used as readouts to optimize the bioreactor design and improve tissue function. The engineered tissue graft is then implanted and undergoes integration with the host tissue, which may involve vascularization and innervation depending on the tissue/organ type. Alternatively, the biomaterial scaffold may be implanted as an acellular construct and recruit endogenous cells in vivo. Example applications of the engineered tissue graft include cardiac, skeletal, ophthalmic, vascular, and neural regeneration.

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Developmental Biology > Stem Cell Biology and Regeneration
Translational, Genomic, and Systems Medicine > Translational Medicine
Translational, Genomic, and Systems Medicine > Therapeutic Methods

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Merryn Tawhai

Merryn Tawhai

Dr. Tawhai is PI for lung modeling activities at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and adjunct Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Iowa. Her research centers on developing multi-scale and multi-physics computational models of structure and function in the lung. A theme that runs through all of her work is the relationship between regional changes in lung structure or function and standard integrated measurements of the lung that are made at the mouth.

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