One of the major challenges of stem cell research is “delivery”; how to introduce stem cells or their differentiated derivatives into damaged or defective organs so that they can perform their normal function and respond to physiological demands. Achieving normal function may involve the cells being organized into three-dimensional tissue structures like blood vessels or pieces of cartilage, or integrating closely with existing cells, for example when grafted into the heart or nervous system.
Tissue engineering seeks to address these problems by combining stem cells or their derivatives with artificial matrices or scaffolds that support the cells, mold them into specific shapes, and even cleverly mimic the microenvironment of the stem cell niche. A number of investigators both in the Medical Center and the Department of Biomedical Engineering are pursuing these goals problems in imaginative and innovative ways.
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