Engineering a Healing Environment

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Science  23 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5879, pp. 987-989
DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5879.987d

In respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the airways narrow, leading to impaired oxygen exchange. Tissue engineering affords one approach to reverse such damage: Endothelial cells embedded in a polymer matrix adopt normal morphologies and, when implanted close to sites of damage, promote vascular tissue repair without triggering an immune response. Zani et al. have applied this method by embedding into a denatured collagen matrix both the epithelial cells that line airways and the endothelial cells from surrounding tissue layers. Wrapping injured trachea in this cell-containing matrix enhanced recovery as measured by the size of the lumen and extent of the injury. Either cell type alone had beneficial effects, but both together synergized to improve luminal size and epithelial area more effectively. Measurements of cytokine and growth factor secretion from the endothelial and epithelial cells indicate that the two cell types are interdependent. Their crosstalk increases healing, presumably via secretion of repair-promoting factors, but because the cells are interspersed within the matrix, the normal cellular architecture of the tissue seems not to be required. — KK

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 7046 (2008).

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