Field Author: Ricki Lewis

Sidebars: A Tissue Survey

Over the past decade, tissue engineering has evolved from a hodgepodge of different disciplines to a biotechnology field in its own right. A marriage of chemical engineering and cell biology, with input from genetics and surgery, tissue engineering combines living cells, biochemicals, and synthetic materials into implants that can function in the human body.

Some 30 companies and dozens of academic laboratories are pursuing tissue engineering, with the ultimate goal of fashioning stand-ins for such varied tissues as pancreatic islets, liver, skin, cartilage, bone, nervous tissue, bone marrow, and blood vessels. And although experts agree that it will still be a few years until the family physician offers up replacement skin, engineered tissues are already impacting basic cell culture research, taking it one step closer to mimicking true in vivo conditions.

Today's tissue engineers are an eclectic group. The field "includes chemical...

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