An international collaboration among scientists in Sweden, Russia, and the United States has resulted in the successful engineering of new diaphragm tissue in rats using a mixture of stem cells and a 3D scaffold. When transplanted, this tissue has regrown with the same complex mechanical properties of diaphragm muscle. The study was published online on November 14, 2015 in the journal Biomaterials, and offers hope of a cure for a common birth defect and also for possible heart muscle repairs in the future. The article is titled “Orthotopic Transplantation of a Tissue Engineered Diaphragm in Rats.” The multi-disciplinary team behind the current study includes world-renowned researchers in the field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering: Paolo Macchiarini, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Advanced Center for Regenerative Medicine and Senior Scientist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden; Doris Taylor, Ph.D., Director of Regenerative Medicine Research at the Texas Heart Institute in the USA; and Mark Holterman, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, Illinois, USA; working in collaboration with a research team at the Kuban State Medical University in Russia. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that has to contract and relax constantly to allow breathing. It is also important in swallowing, and acts as a barrier between the chest cavity and the abdomen. Malformations or holes in the diaphragm are found in 1 in 2,500 babies and can cause extreme, often fatal, symptoms. At the moment, surgical repair of large defects like these involves using an artificial patch, which will not grow with the infant and does not provide any contraction to assist with breathing.
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