Term Paper: Tissue Engineering

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Tissue Engineering is an interdisciplinary field which utilizes the principles of life sciences as well as engineering for the creation of biological substitutes or replacements that can heal, improve, maintain or restore the functions of tissues. It involves contributions from doctors, chemical engineers, cell biologists, chemists and material scientists. Since it is comparatively a new field, tissue engineering has to face various challenges ahead. (Shoseyov; Levy, 2007) Tissue engineering can be utilized to manufacture whole tissues in vitro or outside the body. These manufactured tissues can then be used for transplant. These can be used for the repair and regeneration of various connective tissue structures like bone, cartilage as also for the replacement of skin. Tissue engineering can offer treatment for various diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic heart disease, liver failure and cancer. It can also be used for gene therapy. It is estimated that the worldwide market for products of tissue engineering will be worth around $5 billion in the coming years. In addition, future estimates predict the market potential for this technology to be more than $10 billion by 2013. ("Tissue Engineering and Stem Cell Technology Report 2007," 2007)

The tissue engineering process involves growing a network of cells outside the body to form tissues that are fully functional. The initial group of cells may be obtained from donors or from the patients in whom the transplantation is to be performed. This could make many severe medical diseases perfectly curable. For instance, an artificial pancreas grown in the laboratory by employing tissue engineering techniques and transplanted in a patient could make Type I diabetes perfectly curable. (Gazit, 2006)

One of the ways in which a tissue could be manufactured in vitro is by a "biological printing" technique. This technique involves deposition of proteins on various surfaces in the form of microscopic patterns. Several chunks of clear silicone rubber with an array of microscopic lines imprinted on it are arranged in a Petri dish. Next, a liquid containing fibronectin (a common protein) is applied onto each "stamp." A thin layer of this protein is formed as it dries up on the silicone surface. Now each stamp is pressed onto a round glass coverslip which is also silicone-coated. The proteins on the raised portion of the microscopic array get transferred onto the silicone film of the coverslip in a similar pattern. The process is repeated with every stamp. Now the coverslips are immersed in a solution of young developing cells of the target tissue harvested from the donor. These cells stick on to the fibronectin in organized lines. The entire solution containing the coverslips and the cells are placed in an incubator. The young cells slowly start developing along the protein lines during the next few days. These protein lines help in the alignment of cells otherwise they would clash with each other as they developed if grown in a disorganized manner. (Bullis, 2008)

The new tissue is now removed from the incubator. On cooling, the temperature-sensitive adhesive that binds the silicone with the glass coverslip begins to melt. The tissue can now be cut into appropriate shapes. Using this technique, researchers have been able to grow heart tissues and use it to screen the effect of various drugs on its contraction. The technique could be used to produce muscle cells that line arteries and veins and use these cells to test the effects of hypertension drugs. Even smaller devices could be made from these tissues and used in the form of implantable robots inside the human body. (Bullis, 2008)

Another new technology being used to engineer tissues is bionanotechnology. One of the major advantages of using this technology is that the patient's own cells can be used to fabricate the artificial tissue. This would effectively deal with the issue of organ rejection as the new tissue would have the same immunological characteristics as the patient's own tissue. Tissue engineering with the help of nanotechnology involves the manufacture of a "smart matrix" on a nano-scale containing signals for the growth and differentiation of the cells. The matrix provides a framework of scaffold for the systematic arrangement of embryonic or adult stem cells and provides them with an optimum environment for the growth of the engineered tissue. An interesting fact about stem cells is that they have the capability to differentiate into diverse tissues with different morphology, sensory abilities, functions and synthetic capabilities. Various research studies have suggested that the application of external electrical stimulus can effectively control the process of organ formation. One particular area of medical importance in which tissue engineering can play an immense role is that of engineering brain tissue. About 4 million of Americans faced the difficulty of Alzheimer's disease in the year 2006 and this is where tissue engineering can provide a ray of hope. (Gazit, 2006) Latest advances in the field of tissue engineering include 3D or three-dimensional cell culture which is closer to the natural body environment in comparison to the conservative 2D approach. This 3D approach is more advantageous for certain organ systems like the heart. (Petersen; Lazar; Jacob; Wakatsuki, 2007)

Another major health problem that affects a large number of individuals is bone defects caused by trauma or tumor. These can be corrected by assisting the natural healing and development processes with the help of tissue engineering. Bone tissue engineering mimics the natural processes of bone formation by combining stem cells, growth factors and differentiation factors on appropriate scaffolds in a regulated manner. Tissue engineering can also provide hope to those suffering from liver disease given the fact that the liver does not occur in pairs like the kidneys and lungs, and thus its failure often turns out to be life-threatening. In addition, there is a dire shortage of donor livers. Bioartificial livers can be used to sustain the patient for some time until a donor liver becomes available. The components of a bioartificial liver are (i) a bioreactor which is basically a structure consisting of a cell compartment which has hollow channels connected to it for the supply of gases and essential nutrients, (ii) cells mimicking the liver tissue inside the cell compartment and (iii) a microenvironment composed of growth factors, a nutrient medium, serum supplements, hormones and the extracellular matrix or scaffolding material. (Atala, 2007) major challenge to clinicians is the repair of the damaged human retina which has limited capacity to repair or regenerate itself. Tissue engineering involving the use of stem or that of the progenitor cells from varied parts of the Central Nervous System -- CNS can prove to be a potentially effective therapy for the treatment of retinal degeneration. The CNS stem cells do not just possess the capability of self-renewal but also have less chance of immunologic rejection due to its intrinsic immune status. (Tombran-Tink; Barnstable, 2007)

The increase in life expectancy has resulted in a large segment of the population living over the age of 60 giving rise to several problems like osteoarthritis which affects around 20 million people worldwide. Currently, joint replacement therapy is the only effective way to treat this painful condition. However, research in the field of tissue engineering can provide some hope to those suffering from osteoarthritis. Professor Anthony Hollander, a Rheumatologist as well as tissue engineering expert in Bristol, is currently working on isolating rare stem cells from adult bone marrow to create new cartilage. Research has made a considerable headway in the area of Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation or ACI which can be used to treat patients with less amount of cartilage injury or damage. Currently, patients are being recruited for a clinical trial of this procedure. ("Orthopaedic research - a joint approach," 2007) recent breakthrough in the treatment of patients with spinal cord injury was achieved by researchers at Northwestern University. Researchers induced severed spinal cord fibers to regenerate and grow by injecting a nano-engineered gel at the site of injury. This gel prevents the formation of scar tissue at the target site. This gel is injected in the form of a liquid into the spinal cord. It forms a scaffold which provides a framework for the growth of new nerve fibers which grow and enter into the injury site thus repairing the site. This research published in the 2nd April 2008 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience provides hope to those with permanent paralysis or loss of sensation due to spinal cord injuries. (Kessler, 2008)

Applications of tissue engineering in the field of agriculture can have tremendous impact on enhancing crop and animal productivity, environmental sustainability as well as yield stability. Plant tissue engineering can be used for the production of planting materials that are virus-free. This can result in a substantial increase in crop yield. Tissue engineering techniques can also be used to transfer embryos in livestock as well as help in the molecular diagnostics of their diseases. These technologies are reasonably cheap and can be applied easily making it ideal for adoption by developing countries in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Tissue Engineering.  (2008, May 4).  Retrieved June 24, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/tissue-engineering/19967

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