A research team from the University College London (UCL), Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), and Royal Free Hospital is partnering with the regenerative medicine-focused center Cell Therapy Catapult to develop a tissue repair product for babies with esophageal atresia, or esophagi that haven't developed properly. The organizations involved in this project believe this research will lead to the first trial of a tissue-engineered esophageal replacement in infants, one that is designed to grow as they grow. 

The project is based on the work of UCL, GOSH, Royal Free Hospital and University College London Hospital. The team plans to use the research gleaned from previous studies to develop replacement esophagi using stem and other types of cells taken from amniotic fluid, which can be grown on a donor scaffold to create a new organ. The researchers hope to have the first prototype ready for clinical testing in 2016. 

The Cell Therapy Catapult will be managing the project and providing input with regard to nonclinical, clinical, and regulatory issues. Funding for the project is being provided by the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF), making this the first joint project the Cell Therapy Catapult has made with UKSCF. The project is also receiving support from UCL Business PLC. 

“This funding from the UKSCF, for which we are very grateful, will help us develop this technology, ultimately providing patients with an entirely new esophagus rather than trying to repair an inadequate one,” Paolo de Coppi, M.D., Ph.D., consultant pediatric surgeon at GOSH & clinical senior lecturer at UCL Institute of Child Health, said in a statement. “This is part of our wider research into regenerative medicine, in which we are aiming to engineer rejection-free organs and tissues for transplant.”

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