April 10, 2014
4:10 pm

aijung-wangBeyond the Scalpel: Engineering Biomaterials and Stem Cells for In Utero Repair of Structural Birth Defects

Congenital birth defects have been the largest single cause of infant death in the United States for a decade, and result in billions of dollars of healthcare costs every year. Postnatal surgery and other forms of medical management constitute the conventional treatment approaches for birth defects. Over the last three decades, however, fetal surgery has emerged as a promising new field with the demonstrated potential to produce better outcomes than postnatal surgery for various birth defects. Despite the success of this cutting-edge field, birth defects still cause a substantial burden of disease. Innovative, cross-disciplinary approaches are needed to overcome the limitations of current treatment. Our research group is interested in utilizing bioengineering techniques to combine biomaterials and stem cell therapy to further improve the outcomes of fetal surgery. For example, we have utilized various biomaterials and stem cells to augment in utero repair of spina bifida. Spina bifida is a devastating and common birth defect which leaves afflicted children with lower-limb paralysis. Our early exciting results highlight fetal tissue engineering’s incredible potential for functionally curing otherwise debilitating birth defects.


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