Anthony Atala on advantages of tissue engineering
18 May 2018 15:00

Anthony Atala on advantages of tissue engineering

ASTANA. KAZINFORM Anthony Atala, the W.H. Boyce Professor and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who arrived in Astana to participate in the Global Challenges Summit 2018, shared his views in an exclusive interview to Kazinform International News Agency.

Mr. Atala, you are one of the global leaders in the new area of medicine known as tissue engineering. How long have you been dealing with?

We've been working in this area, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, for about 30 years now. So, we started out some time ago and the first thing what we did was to try to learn how to grow cells outside the body, just normal primary human cells outside the body. And thirty years ago, that was a challenge. Over the last several decades, we've learned how to actually make tissues in a laboratory and how to implant them so that we can use them actually in patients as well.

It is common knowledge that the main challenge of organ transplantation is rejection. Nevertheless, a patient is safe from it when using his own cells. How far has the science advanced in this regard? How successful are the results of your work?

One of the challenges, of course, with organ transplantation is that there is rejection. So, one of the advantages of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is that you can use a patient's own cells. You can take a very small sample of tissue of a patient, grow the cells outside the body, create a 3-dimensional mold, and implant it back into the patient. I have been able to do this for a number of organs including skin, bladders, cartilage, muscle, urethra, and other organs.

Organ transplantation is carried out in Kazakhstan, as in the whole world. However, are any tissue engineering procedures performed in Kazakhstan? What do you know about that?

Definitely, every major university in the world, including Kazakhstan, is really working in some manner either with cells or stem cells or materials - all technologies that are very helpful for tissue engineering.

I believe that, as the years go by, tissue engineering is getting more and more important in modern transplantology. What are the prospects? What organs we will be able to grow in future?

In terms of tissues and organs we are creating, flat structures such a skin are least complex. Tubular structures like blood vessels are the second-level complexity. The third level complexity are hollow non-tubular organs like the stomach or the bladder. And, finally, the most complex organs are solid organs like the heart, the liver, the kidney, and that is the progression we are taking as we build these organs for patients from the least complex to the most complex.

Thank you for the interview!