Tissue engineering seeks to restore, maintain, improve, or replace damaged tissues and organs through the combination of scaffolds, cells, and/or biologically active molecules. Tissue engineering often begins with a scaffold, which may utilize any of a number of potential materials, from naturally occurring proteins to biocompatible synthetic polymers. Certain tissue engineering therapies may utilize an existing scaffold by removing the cells from a donor organ, a process called decellularization, until only the pre-existing protein-based scaffold or extracellular matrix (ECM) remains. Cells—and in some cases, additional growth factors to encourage the cells to take root—are added, allowing a tissue or organ to develop and grow ex-vivo.
Biomaterials include any substance engineered to interact with a patient’s living biological system for a medical purpose. These biomaterials often provide support as a physical structure for engineered tissues.
Examples of ARM members that are active in tissue engineering and biomaterials include: