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Cell Sheet Engineering


Cell Sheet Engineering is a methodology for tissue reconstruction and regeneration proposed by Professor Teruo Okano of Tokyo Women’s Medical University. Put simply, cell sheet engineering involves placing a thin film, made from cultured cells, over the affected area. It is an approach that uses nanotechnology to help regenerate cells and organs.

Professor Okano was a researcher in the materials engineering department at Waseda University Graduate School, specializing in macromolecular science. Subsequently, however, his interest turned to medical related fields, and he became an assistant in medical school, before traveling to the University of Utah in the United States to work as Assistant Professor in the College of Pharmacy. He then took a position as Assistant Professor at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, where he remains today. As well as his role as Director and Professor at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, Prof. Okano maintains a number of concurrent roles in various fields, including medicine, engineering and pharmaceuticals. He is a prolific and talented researcher who is familiar with diverse themes in the medical/pharmaceutical and engineering fields. His multidisciplinary background is doubtless what enabled him to develop the idea for cell sheet engineering.

Today, cell sheet technology is considered to be a revolutionary new technology with the potential to dramatically improve regenerative medicine. We take a look at it in more detail below.

In the event of the loss of a part of, or the functionality of a part of, the human body, the main medical treatments available until now have been organ transplantation or transplantation of artificial organs. Organ transplantation, however, is hindered by a critical lack of organ donors, meaning it is impossible to provide all patients with viable organs. Equally, further research is still required to refine artificial organs in order to allow then to reproduce with precision the sophisticated functions of the human body.

Pluripotent stem cells, such as embryonic stem (ES) cells and induced pluripotent stell (iPS) cells, have been the subject of intense speculation in terms of their potential in the development of regenerative medicine. Should a part of the body die (necrotize), be lost through trauma, or lose normal organ or tissue functionality through cancer, patient-derived cells can be used to regain the lost functionality; this is the objective of regenerative medicine. This type of treatment, if realized, would render irrelevant the problems associated with organ transplantation and transplantation of artificial organs.

There are further merits to regenerative medicine. In recent years there has been an increasing demand for personalized medicine, tailor-made to the specific needs of individual patients in order to improve patient Quality of Life (QOL). Regenerative medicine is thought likely to take a central role in this personalized medicine. Regenerative medicine uses the patient’s own cells, and makes use of the body’s own regenerative capabilities to restore tissue or organs that are functional impairment or loss-of-function. This type of therapy also poses no risk of post-transplant rejection, a significant advantage over conventional treatments.

Cell Sheet Engineering
It is clear, therefore, that regenerative medicine has the potential to be extremely useful in future medical care. Japan is the world leader in research and technology in this field. One of the reasons for this is its role in the development of cell sheet engineering, a revolutionary new technology with the potential to dramatically improve regenerative medicine.
However, what exactly is cell sheet engineering?

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