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DNA Cell Biol. 2003 Sep;22(9):549-64.

Tissue engineering in otorhinolaryngology.

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.


Tissue engineering is a field of research with interdisciplinary cooperation between clinicians, cell biologists, and materials research scientists. Many medical specialties apply tissue engineering techniques for the development of artificial replacement tissue. Stages of development extend from basic research and preclinical studies to clinical application. Despite numerous established tissue replacement methods in otorhinolaryngology, head and neck surgery, tissue engineering techniques opens up new ways for cell and tissue repair in this medical field. Autologous cartilage still remains the gold standard in plastic reconstructive surgery of the nose and external ear. The limited amount of patient cartilage obtainable for reconstructive head and neck surgery have rendered cartilage one of the most important targets for tissue engineering in head and neck surgery. Although successful in vitro generation of bioartificial cartilage is possible today, these transplants are affected by resorption after implantation into the patient. Replacement of bone in the facial or cranial region may be necessary after tumor resections, traumas, inflammations or in cases of malformations. Tissue engineering of bone could combine the advantages of autologous bone grafts with a minimal requirement for second interventions. Three different approaches are currently available for treating bone defects with the aid of tissue engineering: (1) matrix-based therapy, (2) factor-based therapy, and (3) cell-based therapy. All three treatment strategies can be used either alone or in combination for reconstruction or regeneration of bone. The use of respiratory epithelium generated in vitro is mainly indicated in reconstructive surgery of the trachea and larynx. Bioartificial respiratory epithelium could be used for functionalizing tracheal prostheses as well as direct epithelial coverage for scar prophylaxis after laser surgery of shorter stenoses. Before clinical application animal experiments have to prove feasability and safety of the different experimental protocols. All diseases accompanied by permanently reduced salivation are possible treatment targets for tissue engineering. Radiogenic xerostomia after radiotherapy of malignant head and neck tumors is of particular importance here due to the high number of affected patients. The number of new diseases is estimated to be over 500,000 cases worldwide. Causal treatment options for radiation-induced salivary gland damage are not yet available; thus, various study groups are currently investigating whether cell therapy concepts can be developed with tissue engineering methods. Tissue engineering opens up new ways to generate vital and functional transplants. Various basic problems have still to be solved before clinically applying in vitro fabricated tissue. Only a fraction of all somatic organ-specific cell types can be grown in sufficient amounts in vitro. The inadequate in vitro oxygen and nutrition supply is another limiting factor for the fabrication of complex tissues or organ systems. Tissue survival is doubtful after implantation, if its supply is not ensured by a capillary network.

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