Tissue engineering is an interdisciplinary field that applies the principles of engineering and life sciences toward the development of biological substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve tissue function. This field has enjoyed tremendous growth in the past 10 years fuelled by its potential role in regenerating new tissues and naturally healing injured or diseased organs. Stem cells due to their pluripotentiality and unlimited capacity for self-renewal, may allow significant advances for distinct reconstructive and cosmetic procedures.
This review aims at outlining the principles of tissue engineering, focusing on the use of adult-derived stem cells as applied to the research and practice of plastic surgery. Review categories have been divided into tissue engineering of the skin and connective tissue, bone marrow, cartilage, adipose tissue, and breast tissue. An analytical review of the current literature on stem cell technology on the above mentioned areas is presented. There have been reports of side effects and unsuccessful treatments. The key to the progress of tissue engineering is an understanding between basic scientists, biochemical engineers, clinicians, and industry.
Although there has been an ongoing research pointing to the enormous potential of using stem cells in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, at this stage, stem cell therapy is still a hope that has not been fully studied and approved. More long-term studies are needed and many questions remain to be answered.
From the Department of Plastic Surgery, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and the Carlos Chagas Post-Graduate Medical Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Received March 19, 2008, and accepted for publication, after revision, March 28, 2008.
Reprints: Dr Aris Sterodimas, MD, MSc, Department of Plastic Surgery, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and the Carlos Chagas Post-Graduate Medical Institute, Rua Dona Mariana 65, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 22280-020.