January 3, 2017

Guest Blog Post: The Ambitious Future of Tissue Engineering

Bagrat Grigoryan and Jordan MillerPhysiologic Systems Engineering & Advanced Materials Lab at Rice University.

Over the last several decades, various advances in tissue engineering have allowed for the not so distant possibility of replacing, repairing, or regenerating injured tissues1. Significant progress has been made in understanding cellular biology as well as pathophysiology and healthy states of tissues. Additionally, a suite of diverse biofabrication technologies and biomaterials has been conceived, enabling fabrication of complex 3D tissues with greater physiological relevance compared to the traditional 2D context that cells are studied in2. However, the field of tissue engineering still has unresolved questions involving choice of fabrication technique, biomaterial, cellular niche, or even cell type when designing a synthetic tissue.

While different fabrication techniques and biomaterials have been explored in fabricating tissues in vitro, the use of stem cells in engineered tissues is ubiquitous. Not surprisingly so, as biologists continually demonstrate novel ways of directing different lineage commitment of stem cells and further unlocking their vast regenerative potential3. Indeed, stem cell banks have emerged to cryogenically store a patient’s own cells as the therapeutic potential of stem cells is being positively demonstrated in multiple clinical trials4. With over 450 mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-based trials alone currently ongoing or completed, the regenerative and immunoregulatory properties of MSCs are constantly being exploited to improve the quality of human life5.

Due to the immense therapeutic potential of MSCs, there is a need to rapidly and reproducibly grow a vast amount of MSCs for clinical and research purposes. Although MSCs were identified and isolated from bone marrow more than 40 years ago, we still have not fully mapped their biological characteristics3.