Ali Khademhosseini

Ali Khademhosseini is regenerating human tissues outside the body that one day will be used for organ transplantation.

With every modern medical miracle, precious lives are saved – and new challenges are born. Take organ transplantation, for instance. In 2011, 21,000 U.S. patients received organ transplants – and yet another 110,000 remained on the organ donation waiting list, according to Donate Life America.

That’s a problem that Ali Khademhosseini, a researcher in Brigham and Women’s Center for Regenerative Therapeutics, is starting to tackle. His lab is buzzing with scientists all focused on one goal – regenerating human tissues outside the body that one day will be used for organ transplantation and drug discovery.

By taking the principles of engineering and materials sciences and combining them with biology, they are developing, as Khademhosseini describes it, “new and radical ways to treat patients and push medicine forward.”

Of course, like most medical strides, it will take years of research before Khademhosseini’s efforts can be put toward clinical treatment. “There are still a great deal of challenges in trying to make regenerative therapeutics readily available clinically. It has happened to some degree for some of the simpler tissues,” notes Khademhosseini. “But it is far away from reaching its full potential.”

But Khademhosseini is patient. He’s also thankful to be at BWH where, as he notes, “researchers like me can work closely with clinicians. … It is just an incredible experience to be able to do research in very close proximity with people who are doing the surgery, or who are doing different kinds of imaging, or treating patients on a daily basis.”

It was in this “bench-to-bedside” environment that BWH performed the first organ transplant (a kidney transplant) in the world in 1954. Now, carrying on the tradition in this next century, Khademhosseini is hoping to answer the next transplantation challenge.

– Linda W, MMQ

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