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Thread: Tissue replacement may apply to all body parts

  1. #1

    Tissue replacement may apply to all body parts

    Tissue replacement may apply to all body parts

    By Ann Parson
    New York Times News Service
    Published August 1, 2006

    WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- At the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Anthony Atala and more than 80 colleagues are working on tissue-replacement projects for practically every body part -- blood vessels and nerves, muscles, cartilage and bones, esophagus and trachea, pancreas, kidneys, liver, heart and even uterus.

    Already the urologist and tissue engineer grows fully functioning bladders from scratch. To repair or replace parts, Atala and other researchers seed a biodegradable scaffold with cells and insert it into the body, where the cells, if all goes smoothly, mature into functioning tissue.

    In the long term, the scientists hope, patients may no longer have to wait on the national transplant list "for someone to die so they can live," as Atala puts it. Organs could be tailor-made for people.

    A more immediate goal is to improve upon a multitude of smaller therapies: transplantable valves for ailing hearts, cell-and-gel preparations for crushed nerves, injections of skeletal muscle cells for urinary incontinence or new salivary gland tissue to rescue radiation patients from dry mouth.

    "The reason this technology works: It's not really surgery," Atala said. "We're just priming the pump" by putting the appropriate cells into the appropriate place and asking the body to do the rest.

    Atala is the urology department chairman at Wake Forest and president of the North American Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society.

    His work in the field began nearly 20 years ago. Tissue engineers then were thwarted: It was nearly impossible to grow most types of cells outside the body. (By "grow," researchers mean getting cells to divide and multiply into usable amounts.)

    This was because adult stem cells -- although known to exist in skin, intestines and other tissues -- remained elusive, as did the slightly more mature progenitor cells, which also generate the specialized cells that make organs function.

    Cell biologists, Atala recalled, were missing the boat.

    "The irony of the whole field was that people were looking for cells according to the properties of the tissues they resided in," he said, "but they were overlooking the tissue's regenerative cells, the cells that grew best."

    When Atala arrived on the scene in the late 1980s, he was, he says, "the reluctant researcher."

    Intent on becoming a physician, he had gone to the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and, when his residency in urology was drawing to a close, he applied for a one-year fellowship in urology at Harvard to hone his skills as a pediatric urologic surgeon.

    But the program's director, Dr. Alan Retik, thought he was better suited for a new two-year version of the program, which included a year of research. "Alan called me in Louisville to say they had picked two candidates and that I was one of them," Atala recalled.

    But, he said, "I really only wanted to be a surgeon." He declined the offer.

    Retik called the next day to see if Atala had changed his mind, and, hearing that he had not, asked to speak to his wife.

    "My wife finally convinced me that if we were going to Boston, we might as well stay for two years," Atala said with his light chortle.

    Before going, he had already improvised a therapy for a common ureter defect in children that involves the backward flow of urine from the bladder to the kidney, sometimes damaging the kidney.

    He came up with the idea of injecting a small balloon under the ureter to correct the problem. At Harvard, he substituted tissue for the balloon.

    Obtaining cells, or chondrocytes, from a patient's ear cartilage and injecting them into the ureter's weak juncture, he was able to form a small cellular ridge that stopped the urine's reflux.

    "This is the type of innovative person he is," said Retik, the chief of urology at Children's Hospital Boston.

    "No one else was interested in trying to use urothelial tissue [the tissue that lines the bladder, ureter and urethra], and people thought that this attempt wouldn't amount to much." But it did, effectively damming urine reflux. Today, a number of different remedies are available.

    For Atala, it was strong proof of the benefits of treating patients with their own cells, allowing them to avoid the immune-system rejection they risk when they receive cells from another person.

    While tissue engineers aren't likely to regenerate complex parts on a regular basis anytime soon -- least of all the human head -- Atala, who is also director of the National Regenerative Medicine Foundation, recently received $1 million from the Defense Department for research that will be undertaken by a coalition of research centers. A primary goal is to grow limbs for injured soldiers.

    "A salamander can grow back its leg," Atala said. "Why can't a human do the same?"

    Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

  2. #2
    Senior Member Scott Buxton's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Spokane, Washington.
    Yay! My sister, a (plants) genetic engineer, has said for weeks that lizards can regrow their tails so we should be able to (will) find the proteins that express regrowth for SCI. Scott.

  3. #3
    Senior Member artsyguy1954's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    British Columbia, Canada
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Buxton
    Yay! My sister, a (plants) genetic engineer, has said for weeks that lizards can regrow their tails so we should be able to (will) find the proteins that express regrowth for SCI. Scott.
    Step up, stand up for:

    'He not busy being born is busy dying." <Bob Dylan>

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