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Pros and Cons of Tissue Engineering

written by: Lashan Clarke • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 9/30/2008

Tissue engineering, intended to improve or to replace biological functions, is an emerging technology. Read about the advantages and disadvantages of tissue engineering.

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    Tissue engineering is the use of a combination of cells, materials, engineering methods and the appropriate biochemical factors to improve biological functions or to replace them altogether. Tissue engineering covers a broad assortment of applications in the medical science fields. It can be used to replace a part of an organ or biological system or to completely replace that organ or biological system. Often, the term "regenerative medicine" is associated with the term "tissue engineering." Along with the pros of this type of medical science, there are also cons.

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    Pros of Tissue Engineering

    The pros of tissue engineering are obvious. Engineering tissues can potentially help a person conquer a disease or illness. Tissue engineering may even be able to cure extreme and mild arthritis in patients that receive this sort of treatment. Tissue engineering also has the capability of prolonging our lives and making the general quality of our lives much better.

    Burn victims can benefit greatly from tissue engineering because tissue engineering can help to regenerate burned skin. The engineered skin would be like an artificial but living skin equivalent.

    At this time, scientists are trying to engineer a working lung. Right now, we do not have the proper technology, but it will come soon. Having the ability to engineer whole organs will one day save thousands of lives per year. Being able to engineer organs will make organ transplant lists unnecessary. A person in need of an organ transplant will not have to be on a waiting list for the organ they need. This type of tissue engineering will take some time to perfect, but we will one day be able to realize these goals.

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    Cons of Tissue Engineering

    The cons of tissue engineering are fewer than the pros, but they are present. Two main cons to tissue engineering are often discussed. One is the possible presence of latent or hidden diseases or illnesses in the base tissue. There is the possibility that that if foreign body tissue was used to reconstruct particular tissue matter for a patient, there could be hidden disease or other hidden illness within that tissue matter. This is something that scientists are working hard to prevent; however, latent diseases are troublesome to find with the technology we have now.

    The second con is that there are ethical issues. Those who have problems with tissue engineering are discussing the ethical issues. These issues will hopefully not slow down the study of tissue engineering.

    As we have more experience with tissue engineering, we may be able to perfect it to the point that there will be no cons.