Using scaffolds to rebuilding tissues and organs

09 March 2012

Swedish and American authors say a new technique involving the use of scaffolds into which a patient’s own stem cells are inserted, turning it into a fully functional organ, could offer a potential solution to the donor shortage crisis. 

Professor Martin Pera, Program Head of Stem Cells Australia and Chair of Stem Cell Sciences at the University of Melbourne, explains 
“This article in The Lancet provides an overview of recent advances in rebuilding tissues and organs for transplantation therapy. The authors focus on an approach that exploits nature's own design templates. Cells for transplantation are seeded onto constructs made not from artificial materials, but from donor or animal derived tissues or organs that have been stripped of any cellular content to leave behind the extracellular matrix, the rich and complex scaffold on which organs in the body are constructed. This decellularized extracellular matrix provides an appropriately shaped structure to which the cells can attach, as well as signals which guide their growth, maturation and integration into the new organ." 

"The results using this natural approach to tissue engineering are sometimes quite dramatic, achieving significant reconstruction of the key features of the native tissue by grafted cells. However, in order to avoid the use of animal products, and to get around the shortage of human donor tissue, it is likely that future research will focus on mimicking the natural templates with synthetic materials. Moreover, even with the perfect template, an abundant source of the appropriate cells to seed the scaffold is an essential component to organ reconstruction. Future studies will seek to identify the optimal source of cells for each clinical application, whether from patient tissue or stem cell cultures grown in the laboratory.”

The article was one of two papers published in a Lancet stem cell series. 

For more information:
Badylak SF et al (2012) Engineered whole organs and complex tissues The Lancet 379(9819):943-952 (subscription maybe required)
Stem Cells The

Media coverage:
Engineering Organs to Solve Donor Shortage Medical News Today 9 March 2012
Lab-made organs could offer a solution to donor storage The Conversation 9 March 2012