Leeds Uni’s Biology department boasts a large scope of world-leading research, one such area is that of tissue engineering and more specifically, acellular tissue scaffold production.
Our cells produce chemicals and proteins which make up physical networks between each other. This extra cellular matrix helps define the functions of our tissues and organs. If we remove the cells from a tissue or organ (render it acellular) we are left with is the acellular extracellular matrix; a ‘ghost’ organ or tissue which retains a large proportion of the mechanical properties of the original tissue, but with no cells in it. This technique – termed decellularisation – and the clinical applications are being investigated by a multidisciplinary team led by Prof Eileen Inghamand John Fisher of the University of Leeds.
Incorporating engineering, biochemistry and biology, the various research teams are working on using decellularised pig tissues for future use in humans. Structurally, pig and human tissues are very similar but the inherent differences in our cells and DNA means that an immune reaction to the foreign cells are particularly violent.
However, with removal of the cells, you remove the immune response. dCell®, the patented decellularisation process, prevents eliciting an immune response, provided that all of the cellular components have been removed, allowing dCell® to be used in anyone. Our own native cells are then able to re-populate these scaffolds. This means that over time, the graft will eventually become completely constituted by our own cells and therefore new extracellular matrix, growing and adapting according to our body’s needs without the need for immunological matching.
Currently, having already released a dCell® vascular patch under the Tissue Regenix group, the teams are trying to elucidate exactly how our native cells invade porcine dCell® tissue and change once in the scaffold, but also the degree of re-population when implanted on a huge range of different tissues.
This process is particularly promising in a clinical setting and Tissue Regenix, a company associated with Leeds University that sprung from this research area aims to provide the NHS directly with decellularised tissues. This removes the inherent mark-up that drug companies and industries cre- ate when they provide resources to healthcare institutions, allowing for more resources to be put into the research itself at a much lower
There are obvious ethical connota-tions of using pig decellularised tissues, but on the whole it is a highly promising and interesting area of research.