Biomaterials are synthetic or natural materials that can be implanted to replace or repair tissue with function loss or has degenerated. They are used in several medical devices as valves, artificial joints, dental supplies, catheters and scafolds to develop tissue in vitro.
Clear evidence shows that oxygen is of particular importance in all mechanisms involved in the wound healing and the tissue regeneration process. Taking that into consideration, we developed a novel concept based on the idea of providing a local and constant oxygen supply to tissues in a blood vessel independent mechanism: Photosynthesis. By combining unicellular green microalgae with commercially available biomaterials, we have shown that photosynthetic cells fulfill the metabolic requirements of animal cells in vitro (Hopfner et al. 2014) and generate chimerical algae-animal tissues in vivo without inducing a significant inflammatory reaction in the host (Schenck et al., 2015). In addition to oxygen, we are currently investigating the use of genetically engineered photosynthetic cells to supply other therapeutic molecules to the regenerative microenvironment provided by an artificial scaffold (Chávez et al., 2016).
Our research represents the first step towards the establishment of autotrophic tissue engineering approaches and suggests the use of photosynthetic cells to treat a broad spectrum of hypoxic conditions. Altogether our group is focused in the understanding of the mechanisms that govern tissue repair, the establishment of new reliable in vivo models and the implementation of innovative strategies to improve tissue regeneration