Tissue Engineering Breakthrough: Repairing Organ Tissue Non-Invasively
One of the most promising ways to repair damage to internal organ tissue is the implantation of a lab-grown tissue patch. This tissue patch is compatible with the donor's cells, the patient, and is lab-grown on a scaffold over a period of time. This regenerative technique is successful in repairing the function of internal organs like the bones or the heart. However, surgery performed to implant the tissue patch carries many risks, which, in some cases, render it a too dangerous procedure (in addition to also being a quite expensive one).
To circumvent this problem, a team of researchers led by the renowned tissue engineering specialist Milica Radisic, the University of Toronto, has developed an ingenious new method to implant regenerative tissue. They have created a new biomaterial that can be simply injected through a needle.
The risks of open-heart surgery are notorious given the sensibility of heart cells. And finding an alternative solution to this problem could also benefit other organs. Milica and her colleagues at the University of Toronto relied on their extensive expertise in tissue engineering to come up with a solution that is likely to rewrite the rules of tissue patch administration in the future. The new breakthrough is the result of almost three years of trial initiated with a view to find a viable tissue that can be administered non-invasively. The scientists behind the new injectable heart patch experimented dozens of designs until they finally found a suitable solution to replace damaged heart tissue.
Mechanically, the tissue patch features the property of shape-memory. This means that it immediately reshapes into the desired shape once it is out of the needle, which facilitates natural tissue assimilation without the need for a second injection or surgery to adjust it in place. And being lab-grown from the patient's own cell, the patch bears no risk of immunorejection.
The new invention has so far been tested in pigs and rats with great success. The injectable patch repaired their hearts and even improved cardiac function in rats with damaged ventricles caused by heart attacks.
According to Professor Milica Radisic, this new method could not only benefit the heart but also the tissue repair of other organs. For example, the researcher and her team have already been studying its applicability to the liver. However, more work is necessary before the team can test the new injectable tissue patch in humans.
Tissue engineering is an emerging field in medicine that takes advantage of the significant amount of knowledge that has been gathered in the fields of cellular and chemical biology as well as materials science. In the future, the genetic engineering of tissue could enable the artificial growth of enhanced versions of whole organs. These lab-grown organs would be stronger and healthier than their natural versions, and as a result, an enhanced heart could significantly extend the life span of many people.