J. Cell. Mol. Med. Vol 10, No 3, 2006 pp. 569-576
It is essential to know where we have been in order
to make reasonable predictions as to where we are
headed. This article represents one person’s recol-
lection of the history of Tissue Engineering  and
consequently, it will most certainly contain some
personal biases. I apologize to any individuals
whose significant contributions to the field of tissue
engineering that may have not been presented here
as a result of my own misunderstanding or over-
sight. In presenting a historical perspective of the
emergence of tissue engineering as a multidisci-
plinary science, I will include the information con-
cerning the development of the journal “Tissue
Engineering” and the formation of the society, both
of which have evolved during the last decade.
Significant future challenges will be discussed.
The famous painting by Fra Angeliac entitled,
“Healing of Justinian” depicting the brothers Saints
Damien and Cosmos Transplanting a Homograft
limb onto a wounded soldier is often referred to as
the first historical reference to “tissue engineering”.
However, Genesis I:1 “The Lord, breathed a deep
sleep on the man and while he was asleep he took out
one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The
Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he
had taken from the man” , may be interpreted as
the oldest written reference.
As recently as the 1980’s, the term tissue engi-
neering was loosely applied to the use of prosthetic
devices and the surgical manipulation of tissues. In
actuality, a meeting held in the late 1980’s in
Keystone, Colorado entitled, “Tissue Engineering”,
sponsored by the National Science Foundation had
very little to do with the discipline of tissue engi-
neering as it is viewed today. While the meeting did
emphasize efforts to manipulate living tissues and
potentially combine them with prosthetic materials,
the actual generation of new tissue utilizing biolog-
ics, either alone or in combination with appropriate
scaffolding material was not a focus of the meeting.
The roots of Tissue Engineering, as a modern sci-
entific discipline, dedicated to the generation of new
tissue using the principles of engineering in combi-
nation with an understanding and application of the
biologic sciences, are deeply seated in Boston. To my
knowledge, the first recorded use of the term Tissue
Engineering, as it is applied today, was in a published
article entitled, “Functional Organ Replacement: The
New Technology of Tissue Engineering”  in
“Surgical Technology International” in 1991.
The early years
A pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Children’s
Hospital, W. T. Green, M.D., undertook a number of
experiments in the early 1970’s to generate new carti-
lage using chondrocytes seeded onto spicules of bone
and implanted in nude mice. Although unsuccessful,
The history of tissue engineering
Charles A. Vacanti *
Harvard Medical School, Department of Anesthesiology, Brigham and Womens Hospital,
Boston, MA, USA
Received: May 24, 2006; Accepted: July 21, 2006
* Correspondence to: Charles A. VACANTI, MD E-mail: cvacanti@PARTNERS.ORG
Tissue Engineering Review Series
Guest Editor: R. E. Horch
Available online at
Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
• The early years
• Development of an organizational structure
• The society
• “Tissue Engineering”, the journal
• Tissue engineering and the public arena
• Future challenges
• In conclusion
tion, the expression of such markers, for a period of
time, is normal. It is my belief that instances of repet-
itive or significant injury, which result in the loss of
environmental cues to the repair cells, may cause
these cells to undergo a time of very high degree of
multiplication, then lose their environmental cues and
not mature. In this state of high multiplication, the
cells will express oncogenes and may indeed become
malignant. In this respect, cancer cells may represent
the natural repair process of the body that has gone
awry. They may be small enough to be transported via
the lymphatic system which generally limits the entry
of larger, more mature cells and metastasize to distant
sites. At this time there is not sufficient evidence to
verify this hypothesis; however I believe that it is
indeed an internally consistent model that may
explain both the process of repair and repair gone
awry, or cancer. As such, the study of the replication
and maturization of these cells may lead to significant
advances in the treatment of various cancers.
The development of the field of Tissue Engineering
has been interesting, to say the least. It has also been
challenging, gratifying and memorable. Although
the number of multidisciplinary technologies cur-
rently being studied in medicine and the biologic
sciences appears to be overwhelming and unrelated,
it is my belief that the accumulation of such knowl-
edge will ultimately culminate in the clarification of
one central process responsible for development,
repair and regeneration of any organ system, as well
as the mechanism and potential treatment for cancer.
I would most importantly like to thank my wife of 33
years, Linda K. Vacanti, who not only supported me in
these efforts, but served as the Administrator of the jour-
nal for almost a decade and of the Society for 5 years.
I would like to thank my co-conspirator and brother in
these efforts, Dr. Joseph P. Vacanti. Without his ingenuity,
impeccable judgment and dedication, these efforts would
have never “gotten off of the ground”.
I also would like to express my sincere gratitude to:
Carol Lofton, who continues to serve as the Chief
Administrative Assistant for the journal. She is an
extremely dedicated person.
Dr. Antonios Mikos, who has been sufficiently
patient and dedicated to continue in a very time-consum-
ing task for more than a decade.
Dr. Peter Johnson, who helped the founding efforts of
both the journal and the Society for an extended period
of time. His efforts have enabled both the journal and the
society to advance to new heights. His perspective and
his dedication have helped convert these efforts from
small, “family” enterprises, to well-organized, interna-
I would like to thank the governing boards of the
Society and editorial board of the journal for the tremen-
dous amount of work to make these endeavors success-
ful. Most importantly, I wish to thank all of the members
of the Society, internationally, for their support and the
research scientists who contribute as authors and sub-
scribers to the journal.
Tissue Engineering Review. 2006
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