To correct, improve, and maintain tissues, and their functions, are common denominators in tissue engineering and reconstructive plastic surgery. This can be achieved by using autolo-gous tissues as in flaps or transplants. However, often autologous tissue is not useable. This is one of the reasons for the increasing interest among plastic surgeons for tissue engineering, and it has led to fruitful cross-fertilizations between the fields. Tissue engineering is defined as an interdisciplinary field that applies the principles of engineering and life sciences for development of biologic substitutes designed to maintain, restore, or improve tissue functions. These methods have already dramatically improved the possibilities to treat a number of medical conditions, and can arbitrarily be divided into two main principles:
> Methods where autologous cells are cultured in vitro and transplanted by means of a cell suspension, a graft, or in a 3-D biodegradable matrix as carrier.
> Methods where the tissue of interest is stimulated and given the right prerequisites to regenerate the tissue in vivo/situ with the assistance of implantation of specially designed materials, or application of substances that regulate cell functions - guided tissue regeneration.
We have shown that human mammary epithelial cells and adipocytes could be isolated from tissue biopsies and that the cells kept their proliferative ability. When co-cultured in a 3-D matrix, patterns of ductal structures of epithelial cells embedded in clusters of adipocytes, mimicking the in vivo architecture of human breast tissue, were seen. This indicated that human autologous breast tissue can be regenerated in vitro.
The adipose tissue is also generally used to correct soft tissue defects e.g. by autologous fat transplantation. Alas 30-70% of the transplanted fat is commonly resorbed. Preadipocytes are believed to be hardier and also able to replicate, and hence, are probably more useful for fat transplantation. We showed that by using cell culture techniques, significantly more pre-adipocytes could survive and proliferate in vitro compared to two clinically used techniques of fat graft handling. Theoretically, a biopsy of fat could generate enough preadipocytes to seed a biodegradable matrix that is implanted to correct a defect. The cells in the matrix will replicate at a rate that parallels the vascular development, the matrix subsequently degrades and the cell-matrix complex is replaced by regenerated, vascularized adipose tissue.
We further evaluated different biodegradable scaffolds usable for tissue engineering of soft tissues. A macroporous gelatin sphere showed several appealing characteristics. A number of primary human ecto- and mesodermal cells were proven to thrive on the gelatin spheres when cultured in spinner flasks. As the spheres are biodegradable, it follows that the cells can be cultured and expanded on the same substrate that functions as a transplantation vehicle and scaffold for tissue engineering of soft tissues.
To evaluate the in vivo behavior of cells and gelatin spheres, an animal study was performed where human fibroblasts and preadipocytes were cultured on the spheres and injected intra-dermally. Cell-seeded spheres were compared with injections of empty spheres and cell suspensions. The pre-seeded spheres showed a near complete regeneration of the soft tissues with neoangiogenesis. Some tissue regeneration was seen also in the ‘naked’ spheres but no effect was shown by cell injections.
In a human pilot-study, intradermally injected spheres were compared with hyaluronan. Volume-stability was inferior to hyaluronan but a near complete regeneration of the dermis was proven, indicating that the volume-effect is permanent in contrast to hyaluronan which eventually will be resorbed. Further studies are needed to fully evaluate the effect of the macroporous gelatin spheres, with or without cellular pre-seeding, as a matrix for guided tissue regeneration. However, we believe that the prospect to use these spheres as an injectable, 3D, biodegradable matrix will greatly enhance our possibilities to regenerate tissues through guided tissue regeneration.
On the day of the defence date the status of article V was In Press.