Tissue Regeneration / Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering, which incorporates knowledge of materials science, regeneration biology and current advances in proteomics and genomics, aims to generate new material for replacing diseased or damaged tissues or organs. In the case of skin, the ultimate goal is to create a construct that effects the complete regeneration of functional skin, including all its layers and appendages as well as an operational vascular and nervous network, with scar-free integration within the surrounding host tissue.

 

The challenge in regeneration research is to understand how the events of tissue injury, which would normally lead to scarring, can be coaxed toward the activation of plasticity in residual progenitor cells, enabling regeneration. One solution might be to identify the molecules expressed during regeneration and incorporate them into a ‘‘smart matrix’’ for use in the creation of a skin equivalent. This requires isolation and characterization of genes and proteins involved in both repair and regeneration. With this in mind, the Theoret lab constructed a comprehensive database of gene expression during normal healing and problematic scarring in the horse.

 

Regenerative medicine is evolving rapidly due to advances in the use of stem cells for research and therapeutics. The Theoret lab has recently begun to focus on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) in view of developing stem cell-based therapies for managing wounds in horses. We are currently investigating the antigenicity of equine iPSC (both autologous and allogeneic) and have developed an efficient protocol for their directed differentiation into a keratinocyte lineage. In principle, eiPSC-keratinocytes provide an inexhaustible supply of patient-specific stem cells that might be used to engineer a skin substitute for wound therapy in horses.

 

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