Tissue Engineering

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Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering, labeled by Time.com as the number one hottest job for the 21st century, holds great potential for medicine and the treatment of chronic diseases and disorders. With tissue engineering, familiar problems like the rejection of foreign tissue by the body, the severe shortage of organ donors, and the inefficiency of artificial devices may be solved. However, this cutting edge biotechnology has already spurred intense controversy over the ethics and morality of creating spare human body parts.

The goal of tissue engineering is to grow tissues and neo-organs that can be used for transplants. Tissue engineers must first decide what type of cell they want to use and stimulate to grow. Because animal cells may be unsafe and rejected by a human immune system, human cells are preferred when the end goal is an organ for human use. Embryonic stem cells may be used, but it is difficult to be able to coax the cells to differentiate into the specific cells needed for the organ (e.g. liver cells). Progenitor cells are not fully differentiated and thus can be stimulated to grow into different cell types. For example, there is a progenitor cell that can form into either bile-producing cells or cells that line bile ducts, depending on the way it is manipulated in culture. For a wound or bone fracture, an injection of growth factors can stimulate the specific cells around the wound to regenerate and facilitate healing. The specific cells can also be grown in bioreactors that simulate the conditions of a human body and expose the cells to growth factors.

Using the cultured cells, tissue engineers then seed them on a molded scaffold. The scaffold is made out of a biodegradable material that disintegrat...

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...th kidney disease, and she, the recipient of two brand-new engineered kidneys, displays a quasi-jealousy over the patient who will have dialysis treatment and receive attention every week. With neo-organs readily available to replace diseased and worn out organs, what will happen to doctor-patient relations? We may be able to one day perfect tissue engineering, but a flawless science will not do much so long as we have emotionally flawed humans like Olivia and Troy.

Sources

Langer, Robert S. and Joseph P. Vacanti. “Tissue Engineering: The Challenges Ahead.” Scientific American April 1999: 86-89.

Mooney, David J. and Antonios G. Mikos. “Growing New Organs.” Scientific American April 1999: 60-68.

“What Will be the 10 Hottest Jobs?” Visions of the 21st Century. 1 May 2000. http://www.time.com/time/reports/v21/work/mag_ten_hottest_jobs.html.

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