Structural Tissue Reconstruction Projects


This cluster of projects focuses upon manufacturing of customized implants for tissue regeneration. Many tissues such as cartilage do not heal well usually because of low vascularity and neural activity. The traditional approaches to scaffolding for these difficult-to-heal areas fall short because they are biocompatible, but not bioactive. Many groups have tried to supplement the scaffolds with cell culture prior to implantation, but this approach carries significant risk to the patients and FDA approval has yet to be given universally. Recent developments in tissue engineering have allowed the formation of decellularized materials from almost any tissue in the body. Decellularization maintains the important growth factors, proteins, and microstructure of the tissue from which it was collected, yet carries very low risk of disease transfection. Further, minimal manipulation of the tissue means that the FDA does not need to regulate it. However, the decellularized materials lack mechanical integrity and patient specificity that has been accomplished with traditional polymer scaffolds. The group of projects falling underneath this umbrella seek to augment growth of difficult tissue types by combining the decellularized materials with biocompatible polymers for scaffolds that can be produced in one manufacturing step using state of the art equipment available to STEEL students. The projects in the bioinspired scaffolding group have been formed in collaboration with practicing clinicians at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and are focused around the following subjects in the fields of otolaryngology, plastic surgery, fetal development, and orthopedics:

  • Osteochondral augmentation: growing tissue to help treat large defects particularly in articular cartilage in the hip and knee joints.
  • Tracheal reconstruction: building appropriately sized tracheal implants for pediatric patients with tracheal malformations.
  • Cleft palate reconstruction: creating patient-specific scaffolding for infants born with cleft palate in order to decrease healing time and increase cosmetic appearance.
  • Myelomeningocele (MMC) repair: applying decellularized materials in a novel way to promote repair.

Affiliates: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Division of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery, Center for Pediatric Voice Disorders, Division of Plastic Surgery Craniofacial Center, and Division of General and Thoracic Surgery


Current medical treatments for degenerative disc disease are limited and the available surgical treatments to remove the perturbed discs while stabilizing the new spinal construct are costly and invasive with associated risk of morbidity. Leading research is focused on less invasive methods to reverse or prevent intervertebral disc degeneration. Biological repair of regeneration of the intervertebral disc has been advocated with recent advances in recombinant therapeutic proteins. Costs associated with growth factors such as bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) have not yet reached affordable. The proposed study will investigate a treatment for disc degeneration with the potential for substantially lower cost. Also, the investigative effort will involve using defined animal models with IVD degeneration to further characterize the safety and effectiveness of using simvastatin specifically as an off-label indication of stains. 



In the United States alone there are approximately one million meniscal procedures performed each year and that number continues to increase.  In the past, the standard surgical treatment had been partial or total meniscectomy due to the low healing potential of the meniscus, especially in the avascular zone. Our lab addresses the meniscal tears that occur in the avascular zone and are not typically considered feasible for repair.  We are developing a method to enhance healing and chondrogenesis in the meniscus after repair by utilizing the drug Simvastatin.