7.7.2 Definition & Short Description
Keywords: tissue engineering, scaffold, bioreactor, biochip, bioactive, biomimetic, biomaterial, extracellular matrix.
For the purpose of this report, regenerative medicine describes those nanomaterials and techniques employed to repair or replace damaged soft and hard tissue.
Tissue engineering is the use of cells and their molecules in artificial constructs that compensate for lost or impaired body functions . Scaffolds made of porous biomaterials which mimic the cellular environment are seeded with cells and allowed to grow there. The grown tissue construct is then implanted into the body of the patient where it replaces the diseased tissues and the scaffold degrades. Since its inception in the 1980s, the technology has grown to a stage where it has been used to replace pulmonary arteries  and to regenerate human thumb tissue .
With the emergence of nanotechnology and new characterisation tools, it has become easier to synthesise and characterise materials at the nanoscale to enhance the activities of biological molecules and to mimic the biological functions. The advantage of nanotechnology based methods and materials in regenerative medicine is that tissues and associated extracellular matrix (ECM) which help in the regeneration of tissues in biological systems are also nanostructured materials. The interaction between ECM and the cells determines the cell growth, mobility and behaviour. The use of nanomaterials in tissue regeneration can help to create an environment which mimics the natural conditions promoting cell adhesion, cell differentiation and cell growth.
The delivery of proteins, peptides, genes and other growth factors in a sequential manner is also important in assisting cell growth. These bioactive signalling molecules trigger the regenerative activities by their entrance into the cellular matrix at the appropriate time. Methodologies used to incorporate these molecules into the artificial cellular matrix using nanotechnology have been proposed. These include the use of polymers in ECM to immobilise these triggering agents. Functionalisation of scaffolds with different biomolecules to target different types of cell has been proposed as a strategy to improve tissue adhesion and growth. This report examines some of the recent advances in regenerative medicine enabled by the use of novel materials, developments in bioreactor technologies and nanotechnology.
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