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October 2002 Tissue Engineering - the new Frontier of Medical Science
Tissue Engineering - the new Frontier of Medical Science
Advances in medical science in recent years have been quite extraordinary, enhancing quality of life and human longevity to a degree unimaginable ten years ago. One area, still in its infancy in Ireland in terms of research, but with huge potential for patient care is that of tissue engineering.
Two of the world's foremost authorities on tissue engineering will address a seminar entitled 'The Present Future of Tissue Engineering', which begins at 4.00 p.m., in the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway, on Tuesday, 5 November, 2002. Professor Robert Nerem of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA and Professor David Williams, Professor of Tissue Engineering at the University of Liverpool, will share their knowledge and expertise in a subject which carries new hope for patients worldwide. The seminar is being organised by the Bio-Medical Engineering Division of the Institute of Engineers in Ireland.
Tissue engineering is an interdisciplinary field that applies the principles of engineering and the life sciences to the development of biological substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve tissue function. The ability to engineer or regenerate lost tissue due to injury, aging, disease, or genetic abnormality holds exciting promise. With the development of complex three-dimensional tissue constructs, scientists are beginning to meet clinical needs.
Not only does tissue engineering provide the potential to radically improve many medical therapies but it also involves significant financial savings, as for example, in organ transplantation. In standard organ transplantation, a mismatch of tissue types necessitates lifelong immuno-suppression, with its attendant problems of graft rejection, drug therapy costs and the potential for the development of certain types of cancer. In addition, there is the risk of rejection of the tissue and the surgery itself always carries some risk.
To date, progress in tissue engineering has achieved the following successes:
- Design and growth of human tissues outside the body for later implantation to repair or replace diseased tissues. The most common example of this form of therapy is the skin graft, which is used in the treatment of burns.
- Implantation of cell-containing or cell-free devices that induce the regeneration of functional human tissue. This approach relies on the purification and large-scale production of appropriate 'signal' molecules, like growth factors to assist in tissue regeneration. In addition, novel polymers are being created and assembled into three-dimensional configurations, to which cells attach and grow to reconstitute tissues. An example of this is the biomaterial matrix used to promote bone re-growth for periodontal disease.
- Development of external or internal devices containing human tissues designed to replace the function of diseased internal tissues. This approach involves isolation of cells from the body, using such techniques as stem cell therapy, placing them on or within structural matrices and implanting the new system inside the body or using the system outside the body. Examples of this approach include repair of bone, muscle, tendon and cartilage as well as cell-lined vascular grafts and artificial liver.
The seminar will feature a panel discussion with experts in the fields of medicine and engineering in Ireland, including the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science at NUI Galway.
Information from:Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press and Information Officer, NUI Galway.
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