Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering is the nascent science of growing living tissue in laboratories for transplantation into humans. This technology will revolutionize the field of reconstructive surgery, allowing the successful regeneration of everything from skin for burn victims, the liver for disease victims and ears and noses for people who have lost or disfigured extremities.

In October 1995, University of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers announced success in growing cartilage in the shape of a human ear on the back of a mouse. The researchers used a polymer framework to grow human cartilage cells on the mouse, specially bred not to reject human cells.

Scientists have successfully grown liver, skin, cartilage, bone, ureters, heart valves, tendons, intestines, blood vessels and breast tissue on polymers. Although no products are yet publicly available, in the future reconstructive surgery will be much more complete and successful as the result of tissue engineering. Tissue-engineered heart valves are already in clinical trials.

Source: October 25, 1995, AP wire story "Of mice and men: Researchers grow human ear on mouse."