Genetic Engineering

What is the future of tissue engineering?
Answered by Shameema Sarker PhD and Nina Tandon
  • Shameema Sarker PhD

    Shameema Sarker PhD

  • Nina Tandon

    Nina Tandon

  1. Shameema Sarker PhD Molecular Biologist & University of Phoenix Faculty Member


    The other side of my work involves [the] development of 3-D tissues of cells in our bodies. What we are trying to do is make artificial organs. In the future, that's what we want, because if you try to take another person's organ and put it in a different person, you have tissue rejection problems, a lot of problems. So, can we generate this in petri dish? Can we? That's the question we are trying to ask and explore. You can't work on a 2-D surface, on a 2-dimensional surface. Just like we realize the Earth is not flat, same here, the cells are not on a flat surface in our body. They're in a 3-dimensional environment. So, how do you create that 3-dimensional environment?

    Luckily for us, NASA engineers, they designed an instrument for us called the bioreactor. This was actually designed by an astronaut named David Wolf. He designed it for us. They actually calculated the physiological forces that you have in your body in vivo. Everything -- the fluid shear forces, everything was calculated for us. They designed this instrument for us, so basically when we grow our cells, they grow in a 3-D environment, and they mimic the in vivo condition. Not only the 3-D architecture, but also the multi-cellular complexity that we have in our body. We can mimic the in vivo condition.

    These are different pieces of the puzzle. We have the cells. So it's like confronting a black box. You have a black box here, and you have your microbes, the different pathogens that you have, and you have your models, which are the cells you are trying to build whether it's a neuronal cell. I actually build models that mimic the in vivo condition. I build neuronal models. And there are all kinds of cells. I'm not going to go into the technicalities. All kinds of cells. The brain has at least three different kinds of cells I need to incorporate when I build the model.

    I also build the lung cells. I build the intestinal cells -- small intestine, large intestine. I build reproductive cell lines. You can build the bladder. Each system in our body, each organ, has a different kind of infection that we suffer from. In the lung, we have cystic fibrosis. We have other respiratory illnesses in the lung. In the bladder, we have urinary tract infections and other infections associated with it. The aspect that I work with for the neuronal cells is related to HIV-associated dementia. It's children who suffer from dementia. So I build this model to look into how this disease takes control of you. How can we reduce the rate of illness or infection that occurs, as we know that 35 percent of the world population suffers from infection disease? And the fatality is about 12 to 17 million every year. People die annually from infectious disease. If we can control that by putting the small pieces of the puzzle together, and trying to get a bigger picture of the world, that would be the most rewarding experience for me in terms of my research work.

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  2. Nina Tandon Postdoctoral Staff Associate Researcher, Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, Columbia University; Associate Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

    I guess it’s sort of a twofold thing. I think we’re going to see a ton more products out there. But I think what will enable that to happen, and it’s probably going to happen concurrently, is standardization of a lot of the cell culture techniques that are occurring right now in a bit of an ad hoc manner in academic and industrial labs, with lots of proprietary methods for culturing cells and for building the technology that grows the cells. I think we’re going to start to see some standardization happening there in order to achieve some scalability.

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