Protocols to Support the Development of Regenerative Medicine

The progress of regenerative medicine towards clinical use is currently hindered by the lack of a suitable non-destructive, 3D imaging method. This is necessary to perform a series of assessments essential to clinical translation, e.g. of the integrity and suitability of the scaffold (e.g. that it is completely cell-free if it has been obtained through a decellularization method), of the correct cell-scaffold interactions during the organ generation process and, last but not least, to ensure that the final regenerated organ fulfils the necessary requirements before implantation in a patient. Histology is used in current studies, and this is both destructive and 2D; conventional micro-CT cannot be used because it lacks the necessary soft-tissue contrast. We have shown that the high soft-tissue sensitivity of our phase-contrast CT methods provides outcomes comparable to histology, while remaining fully three-dimensional and non-destructive. We therefore expect its adoption to lead to significant progress in the clinical translation of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering approaches.

Comparison between a phase contrast CT of a decellularized oesophageal scaffold (a) and the corresponding histology slide (b). Half the slide has been turned to greyscale, to highlight the similarity between the visibility of the soft tissue detail in the two cases. (a), however, is non-destructive and fully 3D.