Volume 3, Issue 2 
2nd Quarter, 2008

Engineering Lung Tissue for Clinical Applications

Professor Dame Julia Polak

This article was adapted from a lecture given by Professor Dame Julia Polak during the 3rd Annual Workshop Webinar on Geoethical Nanotechnology on July 20, 2007, at the Florida Space Coast Office of Terasem Movement, Inc.

Professor Polak is one of the most highly influential researchers in the newly developing field of Tissue Engineering. Professor Polak and her team work diligently within nanotechnological cell and gene research, essentially rewriting the book of medicine to promote tissue regeneration and enhancing the body’s ability to heal itself.

Regenerative medicine is the application of the principles and methods of life sciences, medicine, and engineering toward the development of a biological substitute to restore, maintain and improve body functions.

It covers a number of fields, including that of cell therapy, tissue engineering, and nanotechnology with the aim of delivering safe, effective and consistent therapies. So how do we help the body to heal itself? We could perhaps implant a new organ, and this is how the inspiration of Martine Rothblatt started when she was keen that we try to attempt to recreate what is happening in vivo [1], in any an in vitro [2] situation, to help the ones in desperate clinical need due to the lack of donor organs.  It will not replace it, but it will help out, and this is where we began the field.

There is another way which is now beginning to take place as well (I will go into details of each one), which is to add cells to a diseased organ.  The cells can be exogenous [3] or endogenous [4], and the cells can help towards the regenerative properties of our body.

We all have the ability to regenerate, but we lose it as we grow older and as we move into the evolutionary tree.  Frogs and salamanders cut off a leg, and they can regenerate themselves.  What we have lost or what inhibitory factors we have achieved, does not allow us to regenerate so readily.

When a baby is very young, it can regenerate, for instance if the baby cuts his/her skin, it will heal, leaving no scars.  When they become my age, then it is harder to regenerate.  What is happening; how can we help the body to regenerate itself?

Image 1

By adding cells, maybe to a diseased organ, we could help the regeneration process. Furthermore, we know that there are regenerative cells in the body, some people call them stem cells, some people call them regenerative cells. This can stimulate cell renewal, and we can use this capacity to help the body to regenerate itself. I will go into the details of that later on.

As previously stated, this is desperately needed as a new name is added to the list of ten million people needing a transplant every eighteen minutes, and most will die before a suitable donor organ is found.

Image 2

In this country, there is now a move to try to get more donor organs by specifically indicating we do not want our organs to be removed.  If that is not specifically stated, then it can be removed.

Transplantation requires not simply going and acquiring the organs, but also the need to have intensive care units well prepared for this kind of very drastic operation and so forth, it's a step in the right direction.

We also have other forms of cell therapy.  We have had organ transplantation since 1954’s first kidney transplant
[5].  Since 1968, we have had the therapy of sending cells to replenish the bone marrow within bone marrow transplantation [6]. The field has progressed quite a bit.

What are the main components of regenerative medicine?  The two main components are cells and materials; which cells?

In the early days, we tried using adult cells, then we moved into fetal cells which may carry ethical issues, but they grow very well and they're helpful as a cell source.

Then came the discovery of the stem cells being embryonic or so-called adult stem cells, which occur in every tissue of the body, but principally the bone marrow, umbilical cord, blood, and fat tissue.

A great variety of cells are illustrated here that can offer solutions to unmet clinical needs.


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1. In vivo – adj. Within a living organism.
The American Heritage STEDMAN’S Medical Dictionary. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004: 424.

2. In vitro – adj. In an artificial environment outside a living organism.
The American Heritage STEDMAN’S Medical Dictionary. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004: 424.

3. Exogenous – Originating or produced outside of an organism, tissue, or cell.
The American Heritage STEDMAN’S Medical Dictionary. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004: 284.

4. Endogenous – Originating or produced within an organism, tissue, or cell.
The American Heritage STEDMAN’S Medical Dictionary. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004: 262.

5. 1954’s first kidney transplant - On Dec. 23, 1954, doctors in Boston gave a kidney to a seriously ill, 23-year-old man in the first successful long-term transplant of a human organ. Since then, transplants have saved more than 400,000 lives.
http://www.npr.org/...  March 10, 2008 3:20PM EST

6. Bone marrow transplant back in 1968 - n 1968, the first major landmark in bone marrow transplantation occurred with successful allogeneic transplantations performed for an infant with X-linked lymphopenic immune deficiency and for another with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. These successes were followed by reports of effective transplantation for aplastic anemia and, later, for leukemia. Advances in histocompatability testing and development of marrow donor registries, such as the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), have facilitated the use of unrelated donors, thus expanding the number of patients who can receive transplants.
http://www.emedicine.com/ped/topic2909.htm  March 10, 2008 3:25PM EST



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