20.109(S08):Essay

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Tissue engineering has been a hot topic for over two decades now. In this time, only a few regenerative products have attained commercial and clinical relevance. In the linked editorial, published in Tissue Engineering in 2005, Professor Alan Russell argues that standardization (e.g., of assays) at the research and development stage of tissue engineering products will quicken the clinical translation of regenerative therapies.

Write an essay describing what you believe are the key limitations affecting the field of tissue engineering, and how some of these limitations might be overcome. If you agree with Prof. Russell that standardization is a powerful tool for moving the field forward, be sure to address the concerns he names, including “An oft-cited criticism of standards is that they are a disincentive to creative problem solving and scientific inquiry.” If you disagree with Prof. Russell, be sure to make specific arguments against standards, and explain why the status quo (or a different solution to the problems the field faces) is preferable. What kinds of achievements will standardization (or your own solution) enable?

You may find it useful to skim some other points of view in the history of this discussion. About ten years ago, a group of scientists met to draft standards for tissue-engineered products, as described in Tissue Engineering Volume 4, No. 1 (1998). Almost ten years later (just a few months ago, in fact), a new strategic plan for advancing the field was described in Tissue Engineering Volume 13, No. 12 (2007), which included but did not exclusively focus on standardization. Consider your essay as a contribution to this ongoing discussion, with the caveat that you are not expected to be an expert in the field! Technical details aside, you are likely to encounter these types of high-level discussions about progress wherever your scientific endeavours may take you.

Note: You may look for and respond to a different editorial if you wish, but please run it by me first. For example, I’m open to reading essays about the pros and cons of FDA regulation, the implications of cutting-edge drug delivery for medical privacy, or whatever topics may interest you. However, the topic you choose should be amenable to a making an argument in favour of or against a concrete position, the scope should be narrow enough for a short essay, and the topic should encompass sufficient technical/scientific content.

Logistics

This assignment is due on Tue/Wed May 6/7 by 11 am. You will NOT have an opportunity to formally resubmit this assignment for an improved grade. However, you will receive feedback on a draft of your essay from both teaching faculty and your lab partner by Thu/Fri May 1/2.

References

D. Endy piece on standards (and other engineering practices) in synthetic biology. You may find some of the same arguments applicable to TE.

Editorial introducing 2007 strategic plans for TE. See also other pieces in this volume of the journal Tissue Engineering.

OMICS article on data standards and accessibility in general.

2004 NSF Report on tissue engineering - thorough overview.

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