Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

Posts tagged ‘Tissue Engineering Innovation’

Regular blog readers will know I think tissue engineering is an exciting area where you can see innovation in action – advances in basic science can translate into ways to artificially create replacement organs and body parts.

Research published online 22 July 2012 in Nature Biotechnology by Janna Nawroth and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Harvard University, shows how biomedical engineers are learning from the structure and function of other animals.

In a Nature Biotechnology article titled “a tissue-engineered jellyfish with biomimetic propulsion” researchers describe how they were able to combine rat cardiac muscle cells and a synthetic elastomer membrane into a medusoid like structure that mimicked the propulsion of a jellyfish.

Credit: Caltech and Harvard University

They achieved this by forming the elastomer into a medusoid or jellyfish like shape with eight lobes around a central disc, then applying a monolayer of rat cardiac muscle tissue, which when electrically shocked, contracted in a synchronized way.

The net result was the medusoid “swam” in a similar way to a jellyfish. They effectively developed an artificial pump made out of a hybrid of living cells and silicone rubber.

The video below by Janna Nawroth, produced by Caltech and Harvard University, shows the medusoid in action, and explains how this research advances the design of muscular pumps for biomedical application:

According to the Caltech press release, this approach in reverse-engineering the function of a jellyfish “will be broadly applicable to the reverse engineering of muscular organs in humans.” 

While we are not yet able to tissue engineer a replacement human heart, it’s hard not to believe that at some point in the future we will see the development of hybrid devices that combine synthetic materials and cultured heart muscle cells.


ResearchBlogging.orgJanna C Nawroth, Hyungsuk Lee, Adam W Feinberg, Crystal M Ripplinger, Megan L McCain, Anna Grosberg, John O Dabiri, & Kevin Kit Parker (2012). A tissue-engineered jellyfish with biomimetic propulsion Nature Biotechnology, 30, 792-797 DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2269

Regenerative Medicine and the science behind replacing body parts with synthetic tissue engineered versions took another step forwards today after researchers announced they had transplanted a trachea made of a nanomaterial covered with the patient’s own cells.

Professor Seifalian and Clare Crowley UCL

Researchers from University College London led by Prof. Alexander Seifalian designed and built a polymer based nanocomposite tracheal scaffold, which was then seeded with the patient’s own stem cells.

After two days in a bioreactor (Harvard Bioscience), the cells and the synthetic trachea scaffold were transplanted last month at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm by Prof. Paolo Macchiarini and colleagues, into a patient with late stage tracheal cancer.

As reported by BBC health, and the press releases of University College London (UCL), Karolinska Institute and Harvard Bioscience, the 36 year old man is doing well and because the cells on the trachea were his own, no immunosuppressive drugs were needed.

In the UCL press release, Professor Seifalian said:

“What makes this procedure different is it’s the first time that a wholly tissue engineered synthetic windpipe has been made and successfully transplanted, making it an important milestone for regenerative medicine. We expect there to be many more exciting applications for the novel polymers we have developed.”

While this is still experimental research that needs to be validated in a clinical trial with more subjects, there is the potential for Professor Seifalian’s nanomaterial based tissue scaffold to be used for commercial medical devices such as coronary stents and grafts.

In addition to the development of a nanomaterial that can be used as a tissue scaffold, key to success of the transplant was the ability to grow and cover the engineered material with the patient’s own stem cells.  Harvard Bioscience have specifically designed a bioreactor to culture cells onto a graft for airway tissue reengineering.

As innovation in science drives new milestones in regenerative medicine, we can expect the market for tissue engineered products to grow as companies seek regulatory approval for commercial products.

Above all else, regenerative medicine offers major benefits for patients and the restoration of function and improved quality of life. Today’s news is yet another milestone that highlights the promise of regenerative medicine.

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