Transplants are a staggering biomedical feat that has become so accessible and common that they scarcely make the news unless it’s a first-of-its-kind breakthrough. Despite the leaps and bounds made with these procedures, rejection of the organ or tissue from the body’s immune response remains a huge hurdle.
As reported in the journal Advanced Materials, a group of scientists might have cooked up a solution to the problem. Researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel have invented new technology that allows them to create fully personalized tissue implants using a patient’s own cells and biomaterials.
“These implants will not be rejected by the body,” Professor Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University’s Center for Nanoscience said in a statement.
"Since both the cells and the material used derive from the patient, the implant does not provoke an immune response, ensuring proper regeneration of the defected organ."
Remarkably, the method allows researchers to engineer any kind of tissue implant from just a small fatty tissue biopsy. To do so, they first isolated cells from the patient’s tissues, then they “reprogrammed” them to become induced pluripotent stem cells – “master cells” that have the capacity to develop into all tissue cells in the human body. Next, extracellular material from the biopsy was fashioned into a personalized hydrogel. With these two main components, the scientists successfully engineered personalized tissue samples.
"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," he added.
A similar method is currently available using synthetic materials or cells derived from animal or plants. However, after transplantation, patients are required to take heaps of immunosuppressant drugs, which bring their own dangers, and are faced with the high risk of an immune response that leads to the rejection of the implanted tissue.
While the team have not yet transplanted the personalized tissues into a human body, their early experiments on animals and in vitro human samples suggest that the body’s immune response will be minimal.
So far, they have managed to successfully regenerate functional cardiac, spinal cord, cortical, and adipogenic tissue. They’re also working on the regeneration of an injured spinal cord and an infarcted heart with spinal cord and cardiac implants. Further down the line, they hope to regenerate other organs using a patient’s own cells, such as intestines and eyes.
"With our technology, we can engineer any tissue type, and after transplantation we can efficiently regenerate any diseased or injured organ – a heart after a heart attack, a brain after trauma or with Parkinson's disease, a spinal cord after injury," added Professor Dvir.