STANFORD, Calif. Stem cells can thrive in segments of well-vascularized tissue temporarily removed from laboratory animals, say researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Once the cells have nestled into the tissue's nooks and crannies, the so-called "bioscaffold" can then be seamlessly reconnected to the animal's circulatory system.
The new technique neatly sidesteps a fundamental stumbling block in tissue engineering: the inability to generate solid organs from stem cells in the absence of a reliable supply of blood to the interior of the developing structure.
"Efforts to use tissue engineering to generate whole organs have largely failed," said Geoffrey Gurtner, MD, associate professor of surgery, "primarily due to the lack of available blood vessels. Now we've essentially hijacked an existing structure to overcome this problem." The key, the researchers discovered, is to keep the tissue adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients while outside of the body.
In the near future, the researchers believe that the stem cells in the tissue could be induced to become an internal, living factory of healthy, specialized cells churning out proteins missing in people with conditions such as hemophilia or diabetes. In the long run, they hope to encourage the cells to become entire transplantable organs such as livers or pancreases.
Gurtner, who is also a member of Stanford's Cancer Center, is the senior author of the study, which is featured in the March issue of the FASEB Journal.
The technique devised by Gurtner and his colleagues does more than provide the versatile stem cells with a readily accessible blood supply and a pre-formed cellular framework within which to begin differentiating. It also eliminates the chance of rejection or complications caused by the use of artificial or donor scaffolding materials by utilizing the animal's own tissue.
The researchers capitalized on a portion of the
|Contact: Krista Conger|
Stanford University Medical Center