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Tissue engineering has the potential to address huge healthcare challenges

Tissue engineering and cell therapies, which use living cells as engineering materials, are some of the most talked about interdisciplinary areas in science. With the potential to produce either tailor-made or mass-produced implantable human tissues that can repair, regenerate or replace deceased or lost tissues, these advancing technologies have the potential to address huge healthcare challenges, such as the shortage of organs and tissues for transplant and provide real solutions for challenges such as heart repair, spine injury repair, diabetes and the treatment of chronic wounds.

CuiZhanfeng Cui, Donald Pollock Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of the CRMI Technology Centre at the University of Oxford, whose unit is based in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) in Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science, focuses on using an engineering approach to develop tools that will enable these technologies to become reality. This includes ‘scaffolds’ that provide templates to guide the growth of new tissue in the body and bioreactors that expand cells by simulating the body’s natural environment in the laboratory. Automated bioreactors are a key aspect of Professor Cui’s work and which have been used to help produce the world’s first bioengineered cornea – a procedure carried out by China Regenerative Medicine International (CRMI).

Mesenchymal Stem Cells Growing on Bioreactor MacrocarriersCRMI have now entered into a long-term partnership with the University of Oxford and provided £9m to establish a Technology Centre in IBME which focuses on stem cell therapies and tissue regeneration. This collaboration, which is supporting nine post-doctoral scientists and eight DPhil students, is providing a lot of value to the University as well as producing really important outcomes in the field of tissue engineering.

Professor Cui is also playing an integral role in the new Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) in China. Working with Chinese scientists provides us with greater resources in terms of funding and manpower. China has a huge market for tissue engineering products and is an excellent cost-effective manufacturing base. It is much easier to organise clinical trials in China, for example, because of the large population of patients. Products designed in Oxford and then tested in China will eventually benefit patients all over the world.

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Published on Thursday 22 June 2017