Tissue engineering is increasingly being recognized as a beneficial means for lessening the global disease burden. One strategy of tissue engineering is to replace lost tissues or organs with polymeric scaffolds that contain specialized populations of living cells, with the goal of regenerating tissues to restore normal function. Typical constructs for tissue engineering employ biocompatible and degradable polymers, along with organ-specific and tissue-specific cells. Once implanted, the construct guides the growth and development of new tissues; the polymer scaffold degrades away to be replaced by healthy functioning tissue. The ideal biomaterial for tissue engineering not only defends against disease and supports weakened tissues or organs, it also provides the elements required for healing and repair, stimulates the body's intrinsic immunological and regenerative capacities, and seamlessly interacts with the living body. Tissue engineering has been investigated for virtually every organ system in the human body. This review describes the potential of tissue engineering to alleviate disease, as well as the latest advances in tissue regeneration. The discussion focuses on three specific clinical applications of tissue engineering: cardiac tissue regeneration for treatment of heart failure; nerve regeneration for treatment of stroke; and lung regeneration for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
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