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Nina Tandon: Could tissue engineering mean personalized medicine?
Each of our bodies is utterly unique, which is a lovely thought until it comes to treating an illness — when every body reacts differently, often unpredictably, to standard treatment. Tissue engineer Nina Tandon talks about a possible solution: Using pluripotent stem cells to make personalized models of organs on which to test new drugs and treatments, and storing them on computer chips. (Call it extremely personalized medicine.)
Nina Tandon studies ways to use electrical signals to grow artificial tissues for transplants and other therapies.
WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HER
Nina Tandon studies electrical signaling in the context of tissue engineering, with the goal of creating “spare parts” for human implantation and/or disease models. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Cooper Union, Nina worked on an electronic nose used to “smell” lung cancer as a Fulbright scholar in Rome. She studied electrical stimulation for cardiac tissue engineering at MIT and Columbia, and now continues her research on electrical stimulation for broader tissue-engineering applications. Tandon was a 2011 TED Fellow and a 2012 Senior Fellow.
“I love pointing out to my students that the cable equations we use to analyze transmission along nerves are the same ones developed for the transatlantic cable.” Nina Tandon
Surgeon Anthony Atala demonstrates an early-stage experiment that could someday solve the organ-donor problem: a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney. Using similar technology, Dr. Atala’s young patient Luke Massella received an engineered bladder 10 years ago; we meet him onstage.
Anthony Atala asks, “Can we grow organs instead of transplanting them?” His lab at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is doing just that — engineering over 30 tissues and whole organs.
Why you should listen to him:
Anthony Atala is the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where his work focuses on growing and regenerating tissues and organs. His team engineered the first lab-grown organ to be implanted into a human — a bladder — and is developing experimental fabrication technology that can “print” human tissue on demand.
In 2007, Atala and a team of Harvard University researchers showed that stem cells can be harvested from the amniotic fluid of pregnant women. This and other breakthroughs in the development of smart bio-materials and tissue fabrication technology promises to revolutionize the practice of medicine.
“Anthony Atala bakes things that will make you feel good inside, but we’re not talking cakes and muffins.” PBS