Are spare body parts the future of medicine? | Tomorrow Today - The Science Magazine | DW | 06.05.2013
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Tomorrow Today

Are spare body parts the future of medicine?

We’ll be talking with our studio guest, Prof. Petra Reinke, transplantation expert at the Charité Hospital in Berlin.

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03:29 mins.

DW: Mrs Reinke, the production of artificial skin is still in its early stages. Do you see any potential in this?

Petra Reinke: Yes, I see a lot of potential aspects for this kind of technology. First of course it is important for the cosmetics industry to replace animal testing - and another important issue I would say is that we can use it for testing of novel drugs, which is important for the pharmaceutical industry.

Apart from the cosmetics industry and the pharmaceutical industry , who else might benefit from this?

If you look in the future for clinical applications it might be of interest for dermatologists or surgeons to replace skin difficulties like scars and like burn disorders. Another important issue could be that you can maybe mimic organ functions.

So it's got a lot of potential. What about the disadvantages?

The disadvantage is quite clear up to now, the matrix of this kind of artificial organ is - let's say, not solved so far, because what you need is a close interplay between the matrix and the cells and different cell types. And that is not solved because mostly all these connections between cells and biomaterials are linked to inflammation. And inflammation is not what we want to have in the end.

Can you tell us about what you specialize in - and where perhaps this might be of interest to you?

My special task is organ transplantation and here in particular kidney transplants. Of course it would be of interest to have more organs available to help our patients. And one important issue is to find a way to replace kidney failures outside of using dialysis membranes.

Do you already use 3D printers at the moment?

We have a close interaction with the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg. We work together, but we use another possibility to solve this issue and this is that we use normal organs that you cannot transplant for several reasons. We decellularize these organs, use the native matrix for replacement by, let's say, new cells, so that these organs will be renewed and can replace the complete function.

(Interview: Anne O`Donnell)