Welcome to ITERA Life-Sciences Forum
Tissue engineering is the use of a combination of cells, engineering and materials methods, and suitable biochemical and physio-chemical factors to improve or replace biological functions. While most definitions of tissue engineering cover a broad range of applications, in practice the term is closely associated with applications that repair or replace portions of or whole tissues (i.e., skin, bone, cartilage, blood vessels, cornea reconstruction, bladder, etc...). Often, the tissues involved require certain mechanical and structural properties for proper function. The term has also been applied to efforts to perform specific biochemical functions using cells within an artificially-created support system (e.g. an artificial pancreas, or a bioartificial liver).
The term regenerative medicine is often used synonymously with tissue engineering, although those involved in regenerative medicine place more emphasis on the use of stem cells to produce tissues. In 2003, the NSF published a report entitled "The Emergence of Tissue Engineering as a Research Field", which gives a thorough description of the history of this field. Regenerative medicine is a rapidly evolving field of therapy integrating different scientific and technical areas ,including cell biology ,biomedical and computer engineering as well as clinical medicine thus creating an interdisciplinary exchange network of skills, ideas, materials and efforts between basic and clinical research. Furthermore regenerative medicine can be subdivided into three main areas of application ; cell therapy, tissue engineering and bio-artificial organs. Although some of the terms are considered as interchangeable, we believe that a firmer classification may have both practical and regulatory implications and it should help to reduce confusion in this field.
Cell therapy can be defined as the "the use of living cells to restore, maintain or enhance the function of tissues and organs". Such a strategy has emerged as an achievable therapeutic approach in the past decade due to the progress in cell biology and particularly in techniques for the culture, isolation, characterization, differentiation, cryopreservation of cells derived from several organs and tissues. During the last five years imaging techniques in combination with nanotechnology become increasingly more relevant. In its limited interpretation, the term "cell therapy" refers to the use of cells alone and in the absence of scaffolds and of encapsulation, it can represent the simplest approach of regenerative medicine.
Tissue engineering is aimed at the regeneration of biological tissue through the use of cells, with the eventually aid of supporting structures and or biomolecules. Examples include using living fibroblasts in skin replacement or repair, cartilage repaired with living chondrocytes, or other types of cells used in other ways. Such a definition indicates culture, expansion and or differentiation as well as optimal cryopreservation of the cells.
During the 1st and the 2nd ITERA Life-Sciences Forum Workshops different authors, chairmen and speakers have shown that by new research approaches and more insight information's in cell biology we will enter into new perspectives in cellular therapies for different diseases.
As chairman of the ITERA I would like to thank especially Prof Dr Maurizio Muraca, member of ITERA and Head of the Department of the Laboratories at the Bambino Gesu Ospedale in Rome for his contribution to this introducing ITERA information and welcome text.