Regenerative Medicine Research

There is a dire need for readily available, functional tissues and organs to replace those lost in patients to injury or disease.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website for information on organ and tissue donation and transplantation “an average of 21 people die each day waiting for transplants that can't take place because of the shortage of donated organs.”

While striking, this figure does not take into account the much wider problem of large soft tissue injuries leading to pain, disfigurement, and significant loss of mobility. Current surgical therapies for large soft tissue defects secondary to trauma, infection, burns, congenital malformations, and tumor resections remain imperfect.

Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering has sought to fill these clinical needs by engineering tissue constructs to replace organs and repair damaged tissue. Success has been severely hampered by limited survival of implanted engineered tissues. Cell death in tissue engineered constructs in vivo is caused by a robust early inflammatory response that is common to any injury, even the surgical manipulations required for placement of an implanted tissue.

Additionally, the Achilles heel of engineered constructs is the lack of rapid and robust vascularization of the tissue in vivo. Early vascularization is required to provide the necessary oxygen, nutrients, and waste removal for construct cell survival. A robust angiogenic response is required to obtain tissues of a sufficient size for clinical relevancy and is currently a major limitation in tissue engineering.

At MUSC, our regenerative medicine and bioengineering labs are exploring new technologies to allow bio-engineered implants to survive, engraft and adapt to the form and function of the original tissue.