CELL & DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY IN THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Bioengineering the gut: future prospects of regenerative medicine

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Functions of the gastrointestinal tract include motility, digestion and absorption of nutrients. These functions are mediated by several specialized cell types including smooth muscle cells, neurons, interstitial cells and epithelial cells. In gastrointestinal diseases, some of the cells become degenerated or fail to accomplish their normal functions. Surgical resection of the diseased segments of the gastrointestinal tract is considered the gold-standard treatment in many cases, but patients might have surgical complications and quality of life can remain low. Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine aim to restore, repair, or regenerate the function of the tissues. Gastrointestinal tissue engineering is a challenging process given the specific phenotype and alignment of each cell type that colonizes the tract — these properties are critical for proper functionality. In this Review, we summarize advances in the field of gastrointestinal tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Although the findings are promising, additional studies and optimizations are needed for translational purposes.

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