Institute of Immunity and Transplantation


Organ regeneration

Organ regeneration is the process of implanting or integrating man-made material into a human to replace natural organs or tissues.

Its purpose is to restore a specific function or group of related functions, so the patient may return to a normal life.

Conventional transplantation, known as allotransplantation, has transformed healthcare over the last 50 years, but it has severe limitations: 1) some organs and tissues are difficult to transplant for technical and functional reasons; 2) there is a shortage of donor organs in most countries; 3) the side effects and costs of immunosuppression for people receiving transplants are very high.

Tissue engineering, especially when combined with advances in cell and stem cell science - can replace conventional transplantation with personalised, functional organ and tissue grafts, without the need for immunosuppression.

With over £15million in peer-reviewed grant income, our group is strongly placed for overcoming the challenges in this field of translational science.

Image A: A dense web of DNA secretions covers the mesh tube (called stent), particularly occluding the passage.

Image B: Resorption of the stent causes 'cobblestones' of granulation tissue (white areas). Only small patches of normal tissue (called epithelial) are visible.

Image C: The grafted organ appears open with a health lining (mucosal layer).

Image D: Th mucosal layer is complete, and the passage open and unobstructed. This boy is alive and well.

A major focus of our research lies in understanding how tissue engineered transplants interact with host cells and tissues (reverse translation). This will enable us to develop new hypotheses about biomaterial, cell and in vivo stem cell behaviour in humans.

Clinical or pre-clinical trials we have performed so far include replacements for larynx, trachea, blood vessels (pictured), lacrimal duct, heart valves, oseophagus and facial structures.

The above images show a transcatheter susbsitute heart valvem (size: 23-29mm). The valve is delivered into the heart through the blood vessels, eliminating the need for open heart surgery and its associated risks.

UCL is the world's leading academic manufacturer of advanced medicine. The first human cells were regulated as medicines at our UCL laboratories in 2001, placing us at the forefront of this research.

In 2013 we made 600 medicines from human cells. Our progress has been via life-saving breakthroughs in tissue engineering technology in one-off, compassionate patients. At each step we have refined our methods and asked more focused scientific questions.

Our work is supported by substantial funding from the MRC, TSB, UKSCF and others. This in turn will lead to further understanding and clinical treatments for 'orphan' diseases.