Muscle and Tissue Regeneration

Abdominal wall hernias remain a complex and clinically challenging entity with high rates of post-operative complications. Tissue voids, complications of mesh, risk of infection, adhesions, and chronic pain are but a few of the dynamic challenges associate with hernia surgery. Given the foreign body response to mesh and the tissue voids associated with abdominal wall hernias, Stephen Fann, M.D. believes that these clinical entities lend themselves to solutions that may one day be provided through tissue engineering. 

In collaboration with Michael Yost, Ph.D., vice  chair of research, Fann has studied ways to develop striated skeletal muscle tissue engineered into salient viable options for the repair of abdominal wall defects. The team began their effort by seeding collagen scaffolds with muscular cells to produce cellularized 3D constructs. 

tissue engineering of skeletal muscle

The ultimate goal is to fabricate isogenic myofascial patches for hernia repair. These efforts were followed closely with techniques to improve early vascularization of the constructs to improve engraftment.  

With the accelerated development of 3D printing, the bioengineering lab rapidly embraced this technology and moved away from the seeding of constructs with cells to actually printing the cell-based construct with bioink. Fann has developed striated muscular prevascularized constructs that show earlier connectivity with host vascular systems and reduced inflammation. This innovation coupled with the ability to 3D scan specific wounds and hernia defects propelled the team's ability to custom tailor constructs based on wound and patient-specific geometry.

The lab continues to explore this new application of computer-assisted design based on real-time wounds to optimize and develop new methodology of care for hernia patients and other large soft-tissue defects.