Such Stuff As Biofab Organs Are Made On

Decellularized pig lung, encased in a silicone “pleura,” inside a tissue engineering bioreactor that provides breathing movements and a flow of nutrients to growing lung tissue. [Yale University]For millennia, the idea of regenerating tissues and organs inspired myths and legends, but today it is becoming a reality. Thanks to advances in molecular biology and biotechnology, certain bioengineered organs are already in clinical use.

And a broader array of bioengineered organs will soon be available, now that regenerative medicine is emerging as a vibrant field at the nexus of multiple disciplines.

“For years, tissue engineers have been developing synthetic three-dimensional scaffolds that can be repopulated with cells to regrow organs,” says Peter C. Johnson, M.D., co-editor-in-chief of Tissue Engineering. One of the ideal types of scaffolds is obtained from a solid organ that has been decellularized. Such an organ can be used as a framework for a new organ. The framework is repopulated with cells, and the new organ resembles the original organ.

This strategy has been explored in the research setting, and it has started attracting the interest of developers around the world who want to translate it into the clinic and generate a variety of organs. “Learning about decellularized scaffolds is ideally positioned to provide insight into rebuilding adult organs in an engineered fashion,” Dr. Johnson remarks. “I see this as a learning phase in the greater scheme of tissue engineering.”