Exporting Tissue Engineering

Professor György K.B. Sándor from the Finland Distinguished Professor Program or FiDiPro believes that tissue engineering has the ability to become a new global export item.

FiDiPro is a joint funding program of the Academy of Finland and Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) that enables top researchers to do work in Finland for a fixed period of time.

Sándor is a Canadian professor who specializes in oral and maxillofacial surgery who has participated in FiDIPro. Sandor’s research program examines bone regeneration, hyperbaric oxygen, tissue regeneration, and stem cells. He works at the BioMediTech research institute which is run by the University of Tampere and the Tampere University of Technology. BioMediTech is an innovation center that combines biomedical research with new technologies.

The goal of Sándor’s research program is to produce bone and cartilage by means of tissue engineering techniques that grow tissue-derived stem cells. Some people are missing bone at birth as a result of a developmental disorder, or, in some cases, bone defects from accidents, and various inflammatory diseases can cause bone loss. Particular surgeries that require bone removal can also cause bone loss,

Tissue engineering can produce tailored, living spare parts for human beings. If the protocols and methods of tissue engineering can be up-scaled appropriately, it could become the third alternative form of treatment alongside more traditional forms of treatment for such conditions that include surgery and drug treatments.

“Tissue-derived stem cells can be isolated from the patient’s own tissue. In that way, they will not cause a rejection reaction. Compared to tissue stem cells, human embryonic stem cells have a greater ability to differentiate into different cell types, In practice, that means that all cell types can be used,” Sándor said.

Sandor noted that Finland is a forerunner in developing bone engineering techniques. “At the moment expertise in the field is concentrated in Finland, but it also generated global interest in other medically advanced countries,” said Sándor .

In the near future, large numbers of patients might travel to Finland to receive tissue engineering-based treatments. As such forms of treatment increase and are perfected, expertise in tissue engineering can be exported for use on a larger scale.

“We have proven with more than 20 clinically successful operations that tissue engineering works,” Sándor said.

Sándor considers the research community in Tampere to be unique when it comes to the way it is run and functions. One of the key reasons why Sandor decided to stay and continue his research in Finland even after his experience with FiDiPro came to an end.

“In the field, BioMediTech is a unique concentration of researchers and expertise. In the Pirkanmaa region, also the cooperation between research, industry, and administration works well. That enables efficient decision-making which, in turn, contributes to the creation of new innovations,” he said.

“Cooperation with colleagues is smooth too. That was the determining factor in my decision to stay in Finland. Each day is like a new adventure.”

Synthetic Silicate Stimulates Stem Cells to Form Bone Cells

Researchers from Boston, MA have used synthetic silicate nanoplatelest or layered clay to induce bone cell formation from stem cells in the absence of other bone-inducing factors.

Synthetic silicates are composed of either simple or complex salts of silicic acid (SiH4O4).  Silicic acids have been used extensively in commercial and industrial applications that include food additives, glass and ceramic filler materials, and anti-caking agents.

In this study, novel silicate nanoplatelets were constructed that stimulated human mesenchymal stem cells to differentiate into bone-making cells in the absence of any bone-inducing growth factors or cytokines.  The presence of the silicate triggers a set of events inside the mesenchymal stem cells that re-enacts the steps cell normally take during development when they form become bone cells.  These exciting findings illustrate how the use of these silicate nanoplatelets in designing bioactive scaffolds for tissue engineering can lead to the formation of clinically useful bone tissues.

The lead author of this work, Ali Khademhosseini from the division of biomedical engineering at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, thinks that silicic acid derivatives might be useful in engineering bone. “With an aging population in the U.S., injuries and degenerative conditions are subsequently on the rise,” said Khademhosseini. This means that there is also an increased demand for therapies to repair damaged tissues. Forming such tissues requires protocols to direct stem cell differentiation so that the cells can form new tissues and biomaterials. According to Khademhosseini, “Silicate nanoplatelets have the potential to address this need in medicine and biotechnology.”

“Based on the strong preliminary studies, we believe that these highly bioactive nanoplatelets may be utilized to develop devices such as injectable tissue repair matrixes, bioactive filters, or therapeutic agents for stimulating specific cellular responses in bone-related tissue engineering,” said Akhilesh Gaharwar, first author of this present study.

Future mechanistic studies are necessary to elucidate those underlying pathways that govern the induction of bone differentiation by materials like silicates. Such studies should lead to a better understanding of how particular strategies can be adjusted to improve the performance of lab constructed biomaterials, and accelerate patient recovery time.