, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 315-322

Bladder tissue engineering through nanotechnology

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Abstract

The field of tissue engineering has developed in phases: initially researchers searched for “inert” biomaterials to act solely as replacement structures in the body. Then, they explored biodegradable scaffolds—both naturally derived and synthetic—for the temporary support of growing tissues. Now, a third phase of tissue engineering has developed, through the subcategory of “regenerative medicine.” This renewed focus toward control over tissue morphology and cell phenotype requires proportional advances in scaffold design. Discoveries in nanotechnology have driven both our understanding of cell–substrate interactions, and our ability to influence them. By operating at the size regime of proteins themselves, nanotechnology gives us the opportunity to directly speak the language of cells, through reliable, repeatable creation of nanoscale features. Understanding the synthesis of nanoscale materials, via “top-down” and “bottom-up” strategies, allows researchers to assess the capabilities and limits inherent in both techniques. Urology research as a whole, and bladder regeneration in particular, are well-positioned to benefit from such advances, since our present technology has yet to reach the end goal of functional bladder restoration. In this article, we discuss the current applications of nanoscale materials to bladder tissue engineering, and encourage researchers to explore these interdisciplinary technologies now, or risk playing catch-up in the future.