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Keywords:

  • autologous cells;
  • biomaterials;
  • enteric nervous system;
  • functional tissue engineering;
  • smooth muscle

Abstract

Background and Purpose  Functional tissue engineering of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a complex process aiming to aid the regeneration of structural layers of smooth muscle, intrinsic enteric neuronal plexuses, specialized mucosa, and epithelial cells as well as interstitial cells. The final tissue-engineered construct is intended to mimic the native GI tract anatomically and physiologically. Physiological functionality of tissue-engineered constructs is of utmost importance while considering clinical translation. The construct comprises of cellular components as well as biomaterial scaffolding components. Together, these determine the immune response a tissue-engineered construct would elicit from a host upon implantation. Over the last decade, significant advances have been made to mitigate adverse host reactions. These include a quest for identifying autologous cell sources like embryonic and adult stem cells, bone marrow-derived cells, neural crest-derived cells, and muscle derived-stem cells. Scaffolding biomaterials have been fabricated with increasing biocompatibility and biodegradability. Manufacturing processes have advanced to allow for precise spatial architecture of scaffolds to mimic in vivo milieu closely and achieve neovascularization. This review will focus on the current concepts and the future vision of functional tissue engineering of the diverse neuromuscular structures of the GI tract from the esophagus to the internal anal sphincter.