Over the past 40 years, tissue engineering / regenerative medicine (TERM) has grown from concepts to established medical treatments used in over one million patients. As of 2007, there were approximately 50 firms offering TERM products with annual sales in excess of $1.3 billion, which represent more than a ten-fold increase from 5 years before.
Despite the impressive economic growth of the field and its growing impact on human health, often TERM is understood largely at a phenomenological level. If one considers a historical perspective, developing fields often begin at such a phenomenological stage. For example, chemical engineering initially considered each type of chemical plant as unique. Later in the field's development, it was recognized that regardless of what chemical is being made, a number of "unit operations" where involved (e.g., distillation, mixing, pumping). A major development in the practice of chemical engineering was made when it was recognized that these different unit operations could be understood in the terms of just a few fundamental processes such as transport phenomena (e.g., diffusion, heat transfer, and fluid mechanics), reaction kinetics, and thermodynamics. Importantly these fundamental processes can be rigorously understood with mathematics thereby enabling one to understand and rationally design complex systems from a bottom-up approach. TERM has already advanced from considering each application (e.g., tissue engineering of a skin or blood vessel) as unique to considering the underlying and unifying fundamental processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation, and migration. A critical challenge in the TERM field is to develop a rigorous mathematical understanding of these fundamental processes and to develop appropriate mathematical or computational approaches to enable one to use this rigorous understanding to rationally design complex biological systems relevant to TERM.
This workshop will contribute to this critical challenge by bringing together a mix of participants with clinical, biological, engineering and mathematical backgrounds. To help focus these efforts, cell-matrix interactions in the context of TERM will be a central theme of this workshop. Cell-matrix interactions, including cellular responses to biological and mechanical signals from the matrix as well as cell-mediated generation and remodeling of the matrix, have an important role in a wide array biological systems and TERM applications. Skin/wound healing and cardiovascular tissues will be systems / applications discussed in detail. These will be complemented with additional work from an array of other systems / applications.