Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Anthony Atala's work on engineered bladders

"In terms of actually engineering a complex construct that we engineer outside the body, and then we implant inside the body, this is really the first time we've been able to do that," said Dr. Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., lead author of the research, which is published in the April 4, 2006 issue of the medical journal Lancet.

The experiments did not replace the entire bladder. But if you think of the bladder as a light bulb, Atala's team replaced a large piece of the round part of the bulb, he said, and they ultimately hope to do the whole bulb. That will involve added challenges in hooking up the new bladder to the tubes that come down from the kidney, he said.

There is a patent connection here. Atala, who was at Children's Hospital in Boston for years but recently moved to Wake Forest University, serves on the board of directors of a company that has licensed patents based on the bladder tissue engineering.

In the reported experiment, surgeons took out a piece of each patient's bladder much smaller than a postage stamp. The cells were grown in a nourishing culture and placed along a scaffold that was molded much like a dome, said Dr. Alan B. Retik, surgeon-in-chief at Children's. Then, the dome-shaped structure was connected to the remaining bladder, which had been cut wide open to receive it, and together, the two parts made a ball-shaped organ.

The tissue engineers began with about 1 million cells taken from each patient's bladder, Atala said, and by the time they were ready to re-implant the new piece of bladder about seven weeks later, the engineered cells totaled 1.5 billion.

The article refers to the procedure of the past as the current "gold standard." The tissue-engineering approach still needs extensive testing among other patients before it can be adopted as a substitute, according to a commentary that accompanied the Lancet article and was written by Steve Y. Chung of the Advanced Urology Institute of Illinois. For now, he wrote, using the intestine must remain the gold standard.

The article also noted: The tissue engineering cost about $4,000 per patient, he said, though the entire treatment, including weeks of hospitalization, costs much more.

The Lancet paper was 16 years in the making, Atala said; the actual operations on the patients took place between 1999 and 2001, but it seemed critical to make sure that the improvements in bladder function, and the overall safety of the technique, lasted. Now, he said, he hopes that the technique can be tried on a wider variety of patients with defective bladders.

Dr. Anthony Atala is the scientific founder of Tengion, which has an extensive intellectual property foundation licensed from the Children's Hospital Boston.
Among the A round investors are: Oak Investment Partners; Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation; HealthCap, and L Capital Partners. Tengion was founded by Scheer & Company which was responsible for managing the Company's operations in the first stage of its life cycle. Scheer & Company is best known as the founder of Esperion Therapeutics, Inc., now a division of Pfizer, Inc.

Contemplate published application US 2003/0211602.


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