Surgeons perform more than 8 million surgical procedures in the United States each year to treat patients experiencing organ failure or tissue loss. These patients are treated by transplanting organs from one individual to another, performing reconstructive surgery, or by using mechanical devices such as kidney dialysis, prosthetic hips, or mechanical heart valves. However, the transplantation of organs such as the heart, liver, and kidney is limited by the declining availability of donor organs. For example, only about 3,000 donor livers are available for the roughly 30,000 people who may die from liver failure each year.
The field of tissue engineering has the potential to create tissues to use as model systems in fundamental studies, and eventually, as replacement tissues for damaged or diseased body parts. One of the major challenges in tissue engineering is the mass transfer limitation in tissues thicker than a few cell layers (like skin). The aims of the work presented in this proposal will explore key signals for enhancing the stabilization and strength of new blood vessels grown in vitro. We expect that this work will bring the field of tissue engineering closer to building larger tissues in vitro. The ex vivo model will also be a novel system for studying stem cell homing.
The research proposed is expected to result in new techniques and methodology for the developing three-dimensional tissues with living blood vessels from stem cells for therapeutic repair of scarred heart tissue after a heart attack, and towards the engineering of many other tissues. The citizens of California could benefit from this research in three ways. The most significant impact would be in the potential for new medical therapies to treat a large medical problem. The second benefit is in the potentil for these technologies to bring new business ventures to the state of California. The third benefit is the stem cell training of the students and postdocs involved in this study, especially in [REDACTED].