• Open Access

Tissue engineering of bone: the reconstructive surgeon's point of view


* Correspondence to: Ulrich KNESER, M.D. Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery, University of Erlangen Medical Center. Krankenhausstrasse 12, 91054 Erlangen Germany: Tel.:+49-9131-8533277; Fax.:+49-9131-8539327 E-mail: Ulrich.kneser@chir.imed.uni-erlangen.de


Bone defects represent a medical and socioeconomic challenge. Different types of biomaterials are applied for reconstructive indications and receive rising interest. However, autologous bone grafts are still considered as the gold standard for reconstruction of extended bone defects. The generation of bioartificial bone tissues may help to overcome the problems related to donor site morbidity and size limitations. Tissue engineering is, according to its historic definition, an “interdisciplinary field that applies the principles of engineering and the life sciences toward the development of biological substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve tissue function”. It is based on the understanding of tissue formation and regeneration and aims to rather grow new functional tissues than to build new spare parts. While reconstruction of small to moderate sized bone defects using engineered bone tissues is technically feasible, and some of the currently developed concepts may represent alternatives to autologous bone grafts for certain clinical conditions, the reconstruction of largevolume defects remains challenging. Therefore vascularization concepts gain on interest and the combination of tissue engineering approaches with flap prefabrication techniques may eventually allow application of bone-tissue substitutes grown in vivo with the advantage of minimal donor site morbidity as compared to conventional vascularized bone grafts. The scope of this review is the introduction of basic principles and different components of engineered bioartificial bone tissues with a strong focus on clinical applications in reconstructive surgery. Concepts for the induction of axial vascularization in engineered bone tissues as well as potential clinical applications are discussed in detail.