Ali Khademhosseni, Ph.D., was Chair of the EMBS Micro and Nanotechnology in Medicine Conference. In this video clip, Dr. Khademhosseni speaks to us on his objectives for the conference, and the prospects for clinical applications of his field of work, tissue engineering.
I think there are a number of different things that people have developed to improve medicine using these kinds of tools. For example, we will have a session on is the use of microfluidic technologies for detecting the progression of cancer or AIDS. The way this can happen is that people make microfluidic systems where a little drop of blood can be taken and on this little fluidic system can analyze the number of cancer cells that exist in this sample or number of immune cells that exist to detect the progress of AIDS. That’s just one example. Many other types of examples that people will describe at this conference.
The whole goal is to make functional tissues that can replace damaged tissues of patients. Major challenges in this area are two-fold. One is our inability to get the right and appropriate cells that do the function of the tissue that we want, so that’s why things like stem cells have been such an important topic for so many years. Another challenge is, even if you have the right cell, how to go from cells to make functional tissues. To do this we need to address how to bring the cells together in a functional way and how to make them behave, and how we can make them into large structures, and how do we address issues like blood vessel formation and vascularization of these constructs. How do we align these cells in a way that mimics how their organization is in the body.
The success of tissue engineering depends on the organ that were talking about there’s already commercial successes is artificial skin, for example. And the reason for that is skin is much less vascularized than something like the heart, so it’s easier to create structures that actually recreate that function. With other things, for example, like the liver I think the time frames would be much longer because we have to really understand the underlying biology behind how these cells interact with each other and how these cells function. That’s why the biology is running behind where our engineering systems are, and we have to balance the two to make these tissues actually useful for therapeutics.
The major advice that I tell my students is to think about solving very important problems. And think about what hasn’t been done and how you can do something that’s going to really make an impact. If people do that they’re going to know that the work that they do has the potential to improve human life and make things better. It’s going to be much more stimulating because you know what you do actually matters.
I think its increasing at a very rapid pace. This globalization has really opened up not only borders with respect to trade but borders with respect to scientific exchange whether that’s knowledge or actually exchange of people. Myself, I regularly visit many different countries and give seminars. I’m actually involved in one of these exchange programs in Japan where I go there a few weeks a year, and I actually mentor a number of post docs there and help them with their development and do research there. I think these kinds of things are definitely growing, and it’s going to be very important for making sure that research in different countries improves and elevates and there’s sufficient support and sufficient ability to kind of push the frontiers around the world.