Editors' ChoiceBioengineering

Breath of Fresh Air: Tissue-Engineered Tracheas for Airway Repair

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Science Translational Medicine  22 Sep 2010:
Vol. 2, Issue 50, pp. 50ec148
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001694

Air surrounding us moves in and out of our lungs with every word, laugh, and breath. The panic and anxiety that emerges when diagnosed with a collapsed airway in a lung is beyond imaginable, because the only known solution involves a risky surgery that involves losing that lung. In 2008, this precise situation confronted a young 30-year-old woman, but she was offered a new alternative: a tissue-engineered trachea.

To create the engineered trachea, isolated cells were seeded onto a processed cadaver trachea, which acts as a scaffold for cell growth and provides shape and structure. The procedure was successful and restored normal lung function to that young woman, yet the development of the engineered trachea took 3 months—a considerable length of time in which other complications could manifest and endanger a patient’s life.

To speed up the time to create a tissue-engineered trachea, Baiguera et al. sought to modify the most consuming part in their previous method: the process that removes the cells and immunogenic proteins in the cadaver tracheas. Although previously this process took more than 6 weeks, by using a newer method, the processing can be performed in about 17 days with no loss in efficacy. The processed cadaver tissues were found to have the same mechanical strength as native trachea and also maintained growth factors to facilitate new blood vessel growth and cell repopulation. This improved method enhances the development of tissue-engineered tracheal replacements and blows fresh air on the potential of tissue-engineered clinical treatments for the future.

S. Baiguera et al. Tissue engineered human tracheas for in vivo implantation. Biomaterials 25 August 2010 (10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.08.005). [Abstract]

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