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Researchers Developing Preservation Techniques for Engineered Tissues

June 18, 2008

The demand for native/engineered tissues for transplantation surgeries has overwhelmed the supply. Part of this is due to the storage time limitations of currently available tissue preservation techniques. Although advances of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine show great promise in laboratory and small-scale tests, the transition to large-scale manufacturing of tissue-engineered products is limited due to the lack of reliable storage methods. Long-term preservation of functional tissue can result in a significant impact on tissue engineering and transplantation surgeries.

The long-term storage of engineered tissues without loss of their biological and physiological functions is extremely challenging. Moreover, the limited availability of engineered tissues makes implantation procedures more challenging and expensive. Researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington are investigating these challenges and developing reliable storage methods of these products.

Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Bumsoo Han and his associates recently received a four-year, $1.26 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of long-term storage of engineered human tissue. Dr. Han and his collaborators, Dr. C. J. Chuong in UT Arlington’s Bioengineering Department, Dr. Fred Grinnell at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and Dr. Craig Dutton of the Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are investigating the effects of preservation methods on tissue functionalities and designing reliable preservation protocols for various types of engineered tissues without losing their functionality.

The team is especially interested in cryopreservation, where engineered tissues are stored in a frozen state and thawed prior to use. At extremely low temperatures, biological activity that would lead to cell death is effectively stopped. Unfortunately, freezing and thawing also induce complex biophysical changes in tissue, often damaging the microstucture of the tissue and impairing its functionality. The team will investigate these changes and develop improved cryopreservation methods for functional engineered tissues.

“Our goal is to make tissue engineered products affordable and easy to transport,” said Dr. Han, “providing ‘off-the-shelf’ availability of functional tissue to surgeons for implantation surgery. In addition, these techniques can be extended to preserve native tissue whose storage timeframe is one of the critical factors of transplantation surgery and tissue/organ sharing.”