Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have created the world’s first fully personalized tissue implant, which has been engineered using the patient’s own materials and cells. This new biotechnology makes it possible to engineer any kind of tissue implant from one small fatty tissue biopsy.
“We were able to create a personalized hydrogel from the materials of the biopsy, to differentiate fatty tissue cells into different cell types and to engineer cardiac, spinal cord, cortical and other tissue implants to treat different diseases,” says Professor Tal Dvir of TAU. He added that since the cells and other materials used were derived from the patient, implants would not provoke an immune response, ensuring proper regeneration of any defected organ.
Presently, tissue engineered for use in regenerative medicine cells are isolated from the patient and cultured in biomaterials to assemble into functional tissue. These biomaterials are derived from plants or animals. They could also be completely synthetic. Following transplantation of such tissue, it may cause an immune response, leading to rejection. To prevent this, patients are treated with immunosuppressants, which themselves endanger the patient’s health.
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In short, the immune system sees the implanted tissue as a foreign threat which must be attacked, leading to complications.
The TAU researchers extracted a small biopsy of fatty tissue from patients, and subsequently separated its cellular and a-cellular materials. The cells were then “reprogrammed” to become induced pluripotent stem cells. These are able to make cells from all three basic body layers so they can potentially produce any cell or tissue the body needs to repair itself. Meanwhile, the a-cellular material was processed into a personalized hydrogel. These two materials were then successfully combined to create personalized tissue samples.
The team at TAU is currently working to regenerate an injured spinal cord and an infarcted heart using this technology. They also have plans to work on other organs, including intestines and eyes. A study regarding the potential of human dopaminergic implants for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease in animal models has also been initiated.
Commenting on the medical potential of this technology, Professor Dvir remarked, “we believe that the technology of engineering fully personalized tissue implants of any type will allow us to regenerate any organ with a minimal risk of immune response.”.
The study has been published in Advanced Materials journal.