Do you know that scientists are now able to grow body parts in the lab? Yes, you read it right! This incredible medical breakthrough is called tissue engineering. So, what is tissue engineering? It’s a process that uses a combination of cells and biochemical and physicochemical factors to improve or replace biological functions. In simpler terms, tissue engineering is the art of creating living, functional tissues in the lab, which can help the body heal or replace damaged tissues and organs. To create these tissues, scientists use a combination of scaffolds, cells, and active chemicals to create complex three-dimensional structures that can mimic natural tissues. These engineered tissues can then be implanted into the body, where they can integrate with the surrounding tissue and help repair or replace damaged or diseased organs.
There are three types of cells that scientists use to create these engineered tissues: autologous, allogeneic, and xenogeneic cells, as highlighted in the figure below:
Autologous cells are obtained from the same person to whom they are reimplanted, making them the safest and most precise option. Allogeneic cells are obtained from a donor of the same species, while xenogeneic cells are derived from different species of organisms. While xenogeneic cells carry a higher risk of viral infection, they have traditionally been used to manufacture epidermal tissue.
Revolutionary Applications You Need to Know
Tissue engineering is a part of regenerative medicine, which also includes self-healing research, where the body uses its own processes to reconstruct damaged tissues and organs. The cells of the body have their own mechanism of secreting the support cells, which relay various signaling molecules to the cells. Researchers have been able to regulate these processes to repair damaged tissues or even build new ones by studying how individual cells respond to signals, interact with their environment, and organize into tissues and organs. I have pasted below a figure describing key applications.
While organ transplantation has been the standard method of replacing a damaged organ, tissue engineering can create functional tissues, which can be used to restore, maintain or improve damaged tissues or complete organs inside the human body. Having said that regenerative grafts created using tissue engineering have numerous applications. They can be used to speed up the healing of chronic wounds, fill or heal damaged bones, heal burns, help the body recover after surgery, and regenerate soft tissues. For example, regenerative grafts can protect and add various natural growth factors to wounds, enabling a faster healing process. They can also play an important role in healing 1st and 2nd degree burns, resulting in the reduction of scars and faster healing of the affected area.
A Look at The Current Landscape
Regenerative medicine is a rapidly evolving field that holds the potential to transform the way we approach tissue repair and healing. With over 115 products based on skin regeneration and 40 based on bone regeneration available in the market, it is clear that there is a growing demand for regenerative therapies. The majority of tissue engineering-based skin regeneration products available are allografts, with xenografts being the second most common type. When it comes to the intended use of tissue engineering-based regeneration products, wound healing accounts for the majority, followed by surgical healing and burn healing. With 46% of these products being used for wound healing, it is clear that there is a high demand for innovative and effective therapies in this area.
The Rise of Tissue Engineering Grants
The availability of grant funding is critical to the advancement of tissue engineering-based regeneration products. These products require significant research and development efforts before they can be brought to market. Grants provide the necessary funding to support these activities, allowing researchers to explore new avenues of research and advance the field. Moreover, grants offer several advantages over traditional funding sources, such as venture capital. Unlike venture capital, grant funding does not require repayment or equity sharing, making it a more attractive option for researchers and scientists. Grants also provide a level of independence for researchers, allowing them to pursue innovative research without the constraints of commercial interests.
Over the past few years, there has been a notable increase in the number of grants awarded for tissue engineering-based regeneration products. Currently, over 750 grants have been awarded for this area of research. These grants have provided a significant amount of funding, with close to USD 300 million awarded in the last five years alone. It is noteworthy that the majority of the grant funding, around 70%, was awarded in 2021 alone. This indicates a growing interest in tissue engineering-based regeneration products and their potential impact on healthcare. The grants have supported research and development activities, including preclinical and clinical studies, and have enabled the exploration of new and innovative approaches to tissue engineering.
As the global population continues to age and chronic diseases become more prevalent, the demand for tissue engineering-based regeneration products is expected to surge. Companies engaged in the development of such products are likely to witness lucrative market opportunities in the next few years. Moreover, with the growing awareness among people regarding the benefits of regenerative medicine, the market is expected to expand even further. The advancements in technology and the increasing investments in research and development activities are leading to remarkable breakthroughs in the tissue engineering industry. With the potential to cure and regenerate damaged tissues and organs, tissue engineering is becoming a game-changer in the medical field. Therefore, the future of tissue engineering-based regeneration products looks promising, and it is a thrilling time to be part of this rapidly evolving industry.