A Brief History of Tissue Engineering

6. Week


Brief history: 1900’s… That’s it…

…of course not. When we look at this situation from a pure tissue engineering perspective, we cannot find much to talk about it. The phrase tissue engineering itself has first started to be used in the mid-1980s and it had not has the same meaning as it is now.

Today, tissue engineering is defined as “implementing the basics and different applications of engineering and natural sciences to understand the relationship between normal and pathological mammalian tissues, and to develop biological products for the recovery or the improvement of function”. This term was being used for the manipulation of tissues and organs during surgery in earlier times.

We are talking about such a novel subject but when we consider the underlying principles, the history of regenerative medicine can also be an interest of ours here.


Regenerative medicine has always been one of the centers of attraction for humanity since the first moments of written history. Starting from the myth of Prometheus in Greek mythology and reaching to present, we have a very long period facing us. While the themes of creation and rebirth, which are one of the bases of the regenerative medicine concept, have exploded in the times of Renaissance and became one of the most widely exploited topics in art pieces and literary works, the scientific dimension of the subject has begun to find an important place for itself with the gaining interest on orthotics and prosthetics at the beginning of the 16th century. Organ and tissue transplants have also started to gain momentum in the 18th century, and many experimental attempts were made until the beginning of the 20th century. In the more recent period, with the concept of ethics becoming more prominent in the scientific world, we can see a drastic decrease in the number of medical experiments in the field (let’s not forget that we cannot make a healthy comparison between recent and historical data since actual numbers in past cannot be known precisely at this point).

Dolly (koyun) - Vikipedi
Dolly – Source

The acceleration of stem cell studies with Yamanaka’s induced stem cells (1) is one of the most important developments in the field of regenerative medicine in recent years. The scientific studies, which were gained the necessary publicity with the cloning of Dolly the Sheep (2), are now progressing within a framework that can be described as following:

producing the necessary tissues/organs by using stem cells in a living manner and applying them in the clinic.


In light of this very short and summarized version of the history of regenerative medicine studies, it would not be wrong to make the statement that “tissue and organ engineering is an area derived from regenerative medicine studies”. However, if we look at the history of tissue engineering itself, we see quite exciting developments even though it has a quite short period in the past.

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Vacanti Mouse – (3)

The image of a mouse with an ear on its back, which has managed to maintain its dramatic impact from the moment it appeared first until the present day, was one of those moments where tissue engineering tells the world, “I’m here too!”. It is also a monumental step for the subject as the appearance of the mouse image seen above when the name tissue engineering was officially started to being used with the article of Robert Langer and Joseph Vacanti in 1993. The fact that it has developed so rapidly over 20-30 years, which can be considered as a very, very short period for science in general, is a strict proof to say that the studies have progressed without an official name. Since then, engineered applications such as artificial bladder (4) or heart valve (5) have started to offer an alternative solution for traditional transplantation studies (e.g., from animal to human or from human to human). Today there are a variety of techniques in tissue engineering studies (although, this is the subject of another article and should be explained another time); we will talk about the relevance of stem cells and the basics and the differences of these techniques in the following articles.


20th or 3rd century, regardless of the time, studies to ensure the sustainability of humanity with the developing technology have brought us to the point where we can produce artificial living tissues today.

You can find the references of the important works from past to present and the references in the text below.

References within the article

[1] Shinya Yamanaka’s study, which brought him the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2006.07.024

Takahashi, K., Yamanaka, S., Zhang, Y., Li, Y., Feng, C., Li, X., … Cheung, H. (2006). Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Mouse Embryonic and Adult Fibroblast Cultures by Defined Factors. (4), 663–676.

[2] Dolly the Sheep: https://doi.org/10.1038/385810a0

Wilmut, I., Schnieke, A. E., McWhir, J., Kind, A. J., & Campbell, K. H. S. (1997). Viable offspring derived from fetal and adult mammalian cells. (6619), 810–813.

[3] Vacanti Mouse:

Cao, Y., Vacanti, J. P., Paige, K. T., Upton, J., & Vacanti, C. A. (1997). Transplantation of Chondrocytes Utilizing a Polymer-Cell Construct to Produce Tissue-Engineered Cartilage in the Shape of a Human Ear. (2), 297–302.

[4] Artificial Bladder: https://doi.org/10.1038/614

Oberpenning, F., Meng, J., Yoo, J. J., & Atala, A. (1999). De novo reconstitution of a functional mammalian urinary bladder by tissue engineering. (2), 149–155.

[5] Artificial Heart Valve: https://doi.org/10.1161/01.CIR.102.SUPPL_3.III-44

Hoerstrup, S. P., Sodian, R., Daebritz, S., Wang, J., Bacha, E. A., Martin, D. P., … Mayer Jr., J. E. (2000). Functional living trileaflet heart valves grown in vitro. , III44-III49.

Advance Reading about Regenerative Medicine and/or Tissue and Organ Engineering’s History 

  • U. Meyer, The History of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine in Perspective, in: Fundam. Tissue Eng. Regen. Med., Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2009: pp. 5–12. doi:10.1007/978–3–540–77755–7_1.
  • I. V. Yannas, The Irreversibility of Organ Injury, in: Tissue Organ Regen. Adults, 2nd ed., Springer New York, New York, NY, 2015: pp. 1–25. doi:10.1007/978–1–4939–1865–2_1.
  • R.A. Brown, Extreme Tissue Engineering, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK, 2013. doi:10.1002/9781119941064.
  • A. Vishwakarma, P. Sharpe, S. Shi, M. Ramalingam, An Introduction to Stem Cell Biology and Tissue Engineering, in: Stem Cell Biol. Tissue Eng. Dent. Sci., Elsevier Inc., 2014: pp. 1–13. doi:10.1016/B978–0–12–397157–9.00001–1.
  • C.A. van Blitterswijk, Tissue Engineering — an introduction, in: Tissue Eng., 2008: pp. xiv–xxxvi. doi:10.1016/B978–0–12–370869–4.00014–8.
  • J.P. Vacanti, C.A. Vacanti, The History and Scope of Tissue Engineering, in: Princ. Tissue Eng., Academic Press, 2014: pp. 3–8. doi:10.1016/B978–0–12–398358–9.00001-X.
  • R. Langer, J.P. Vacanti, Tissue Engineering, Science (80-. ). 260 (1993) 920–926. doi:10.1080/00131725009342110.

Translation: Georgiy

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