Researchers are making great strides in techniques for creating real tissue in the lab that can be transplanted without risk of rejection. This means patients needing transplants will not need to rely on antirejection drugs that compromise the immune system. The secret is to use stem cells, which can be obtained from bone marrow, to build organs that mimic, and are recognized by the body as, the patient’s own.
The process, called tissue engineering, uses a polymer framework to create a base for the cells to be grown on, shaping them into a suitable organ for transplant.
Now a new technique, called low-pressure foaming, uses ceramic materials in a vacuum to avoid problems with current methods using salt, which has to be carefully removed. The foaming technique results in interconnected pores and flexible scaffolds, which can be used in a variety of applications for various kinds of bone and muscle.
The scaffolds are ultimately reabsorbed into the body. Another benefit of this new technique is that the scaffolds produce can be engineered to degrade after a set amount of time, which varies according to the use and the expected recovery time.