Tissue engineering and biomaterials offer new clinical applications, with advanced treatments endeavoring to heal hearts, vessels, muscles, and bones, and providing hope where no other medical solution is available. By developing biological substitutes, incorporating living cells and synthetic or natural materials, scientists can now foster tissue regeneration, remodeling, and repair of damaged tissues and organs.
These technologies use the body’s natural ability to adjust, incorporate, and heal, and replace or enhance vital tissue function. The emerging field of stem cells has challenged the traditional view that organs have only limited regenerative capacity. Stem cells represent natural units of embryonic development and tissue regeneration. Embryonic stem (ES) cells, in particular, possess a nearly unlimited capacity for self-renewal, and the potential for differentiating into virtually any cell type of an organism. While most current strategies for tissue engineering depend upon a sample of cells from the diseased organ of the host, pluripotent ES cells are envisioned as a viable source of cells, since they can serve as an alternative source from which the desired tissue can be derived. Novel sources of replacement organs can be produced by combining the techniques learned in tissue engineering over the past few decades with this potentially endless source of versatile cells.