Esophageal tissue engineering: A new approach for esophageal replacement

Giorgia Totonelli, Panagiotis Maghsoudlou, Jonathan M. Fishman, Giuseppe Orlando, Tahera Ansari, Paul Sibbons, Martin A. Birchall, Agostino Pierro, Simon Eaton, Paolo De Coppi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


A number of congenital and acquired disorders require esophageal tissue replacement. Various surgical techniques, such as gastric and colonic interposition, are standards of treatment, but frequently complicated by stenosis and other problems. Regenerative medicine approaches facilitate the use of biological constructs to replace or regenerate normal tissue function. We review the literature of esophageal tissue engineering, discuss its implications, compare the methodologies that have been employed and suggest possible directions for the future. Medline, Embase, the Cochrane Library, National Research Register and databases were searched with the following search terms: stem cell and esophagus, esophageal replacement, esophageal tissue engineering, esophageal substitution. Reference lists of papers identified were also examined and experts in this field contacted for further information. All full-text articles in English of all potentially relevant abstracts were reviewed. Tissue engineering has involved acellular scaffolds that were either transplanted with the aim of being repopulated by host cells or seeded prior to transplantation. When acellular scaffolds were used to replace patch and short tubular defects they allowed epithelial and partial muscular migration whereas when employed for long tubular defects the results were poor leading to an increased rate of stenosis and mortality. Stenting has been shown as an effective means to reduce stenotic changes and promote cell migration, whilst omental wrapping to induce vascularization of the construct has an uncertain benefit. Decellularized matrices have been recently suggested as the optimal choice for scaffolds, but smart polymers that will incorporate signaling to promote cell-scaffold interaction may provide a more reproducible and available solution. Results in animal models that have used seeded scaffolds strongly suggest that seeding of both muscle and epithelial cells on scaffolds prior to implantation is a prerequisite for complete esophageal replacement. Novel approaches need to be designed to allow for peristalsis and vascularization in the engineered esophagus. Although esophageal tissue engineering potentially offers a real alternative to conventional treatments for severe esophageal disease, important barriers remain that need to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6900-6907
Number of pages8
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number47
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Esophagus
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Scaffolds
  • Tissue engineering
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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