Peter X. Ma talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's Fast Breaking Paper in the field of
Pharmacology & Toxicology.
Article Title: Biomimetic materials for tissue
Journal: ADVAN DRUG DELIVERY REV
Year: JAN 14 2008
* Univ Michigan, Dept Biol & Mat Sci, 1011 N Univ Ave,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 USA.
* Univ Michigan, Dept Biol & Mat Sci, Ann Arbor, MI
* Univ Michigan, Dept Biomed Engn, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
(addresses have been truncated)
Why do you think your paper is highly
This paper reviews an important new direction in the fields of
biomaterials, drug delivery, and tissue engineering/regenerative medicine.
The paper systematically discussed a biomaterial (scaffold) design strategy
that mimics extracellular matrix (ECM) structures and biological activities
in the body to facilitate and optimize the regenerative outcome.
Our laboratory is one of a few early laboratories that have explored this
new research direction. The significance and effectiveness of this new
approach have been recognized by our peers. The high citation number is a
reflection of the agreement by peer researchers with the opinions expressed
in the article.
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
The paper reviews new technologies developed by our group as well as others
that demonstrate the effectiveness of the biomimetic approach in designing
a temporary artificial ECM (scaffold) for tissue regeneration. These new
findings have been analyzed and summarized, leading to a now generally
Would you summarize the significance of your paper in
"The initial success further
enhanced my enthusiasm for developing more
advanced scaffolds using the biomimetic
Tissue loss and organ failure are devastating to patients. Due to the
severe shortage of donor organs, a scientific field called tissue
engineering and regenerative medicine has emerged, aiming at regenerating
the needed tissues and organs.
Porous materials are designed as templates (scaffolds) to support cell
growth and function to regenerate the needed new tissues. The porous
materials are biodegradable, so that after fulfilling the template function
they degrade and disappear, leaving behind the regenerated living tissues.
The scaffold plays crucial roles in not only serving as a template, but
also providing the microenvironment for cell growth and function. This
paper, using our research results as well as those of others, demonstrates
the benefits for the scaffolds to mimic the structural features, chemical
composition, and biological molecular activities in the natural tissues.
Both the methods and possible mechanisms of these biomimetic approaches are
discussed, which provide important resources for fellow researchers in the
How did you become involved in this research, and were
there any problems along the way?
Many years ago, I obtained my Ph.D. degree in polymer science and
engineering from Rutgers University. I was attracted to the explosively
growing life sciences field and wanted to personally contribute to the
biological and biomedical sciences using my polymer science background. I
luckily obtained a joint postdoctoral fellow position in two leading labs
in the emerging field of tissue engineering at MIT and Harvard Medical
School. My luck further led me to become the coordinator of these two
collaborating labs for a period of two years.
My own research was to focus on the development of scaffolding materials
and to collaborate with many young surgeons to help generate new tissues.
These projects have proved the principle of tissue engineering by
establishing successfully engineered various tissues for the first time.
However, we soon realized that those regenerated tissues were far from
being clinically useful and the scaffolds developed at that time were
Around that time, I took a faculty position at the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor. I remained excited about tissue engineering and tried to
develop better scaffolds. At the same time I wanted to demonstrate my
independence from the research groups in Boston.
I started to think that the natural ECM might be an important model for us
to mimic in developing advanced scaffolds.
Since then, we have developed various biomimetic nanostructured materials
(nanofibrous scaffolds, nanocomposites, and nanospheres for biomolecule
delivery in scaffolds) and demonstrated their advantages over more
traditional scaffolds. The initial success further enhanced my enthusiasm
for developing more advanced scaffolds using the biomimetic approach.
Where do you see your research leading in the
Although the biomimetic approach has been successful in improving scaffold
structure and biological performance, the mechanisms are not well
understood. Driven by curiosity, we have started to address the underlying
mechanisms. These understandings will facilitate the more rational design
of advanced scaffolds.
Do you foresee any social or political implications for
The biomaterials and tissue engineering research aims to develop advanced
therapies for patients who suffer from tissue loss and organ failure.
Although I do not see any particular issues associated with the goal of the
research, some specific approaches that involve certain types of
cells—such as embryonic stem cells—may continue to be somewhat
The lack of an established regulation system for the technologies and
products in the field may likely limit the growth rate of the field and the
clinical utilization of the technologies. However, regulations will likely
improve overtime. I continue to remain excited about the biomimetic
approach in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
Peter X. Ma, Ph.D., Professor
Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Macromolecular Science and Engineering
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI, USA Web