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Tissue Eng Part B Rev. 2011 Dec;17(6):459-74. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEB.2011.0251. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

Scaffold translation: barriers between concept and clinic.

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Scaffold Tissue Engineering Group, Department of Biomedical Engineering, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Translation of scaffold-based bone tissue engineering (BTE) therapies to clinical use remains, bluntly, a failure. This dearth of translated tissue engineering therapies (including scaffolds) remains despite 25 years of research, research funding totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, over 12,000 papers on BTE and over 2000 papers on BTE scaffolds alone in the past 10 years (PubMed search). Enabling scaffold translation requires first an understanding of the challenges, and second, addressing the complete range of these challenges. There are the obvious technical challenges of designing, manufacturing, and functionalizing scaffolds to fill the Form, Fixation, Function, and Formation needs of bone defect repair. However, these technical solutions should be targeted to specific clinical indications (e.g., mandibular defects, spine fusion, long bone defects, etc.). Further, technical solutions should also address business challenges, including the need to obtain regulatory approval, meet specific market needs, and obtain private investment to develop products, again for specific clinical indications. Finally, these business and technical challenges present a much different model than the typical research paradigm, presenting the field with philosophical challenges in terms of publishing and funding priorities that should be addressed as well. In this article, we review in detail the technical, business, and philosophical barriers of translating scaffolds from Concept to Clinic. We argue that envisioning and engineering scaffolds as modular systems with a sliding scale of complexity offers the best path to addressing these translational challenges.

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