News Column

Tissue engineering under the microscope at gathering

August 28, 2014

SOLUTIONS to organ-donor shortages and the long and often futile wait for organs are being discussed at an international conference of stem cell regeneration experts in Pretoria.

The professors in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine are discussing their work in the re-creation of body parts to help those who need it.

The five-day conference - the first |of its kind in the country - is hosted by the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

"These are specialists in creating spare parts, a scientific feat which provides the solution to this huge organ donation problem," the head of TUT Department of Biomedical Sciences, Dr Shirley Motaung, said.

The 150 delegates are experts in their own fields of focus.

"Each tissue engineering doctor specialises in a specific area in the body," she said.

Tissue engineering is the science of designing and manufacturing new tissue to restore impaired organs and the replacement of body parts after a disease or trauma.

Motaung said the regeneration of organs was more advantageous than organ donation.

"Regenerating a person's organ means that they do not have to wait for somebody to donate one for them.

"The patient's own cells will be used and, as a result, the body will not reject the new organ," she said.

Motaung said there was a growing demand for organs, but that many people died while waiting for transplants.

Organ and tissue donations were life-saving initiatives, often overlooked by people because of either a lack of information or for cultural reasons, she said.

"People are unaware of the power they have to save the lives of others, one person can save up to 23 lives."

While organs were usually donated after the donor's death, others - like a kidney or a lobe of the liver -could be harvested while the person was alive.

While tissue - like skin, bone, corneas and heart valves - could also |be donated after death, tissue engineering was the solution to the overall shortages, she said.

Talks at the conference will also cover basic studies through translational efforts and clinical trials and will address novel topics, she said.

"During the five days, we will listen to well-known experts in the field |as they discuss recent advances, challenges and breakthroughs in the field of tissue engineering."

South Africa's involvement in research in the field could only improve during interactions with international experts, Motaung said.


Pretoria News

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Source: Pretoria News (South Africa)

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