Tissue Engineering

Discover Magazine 22(07): (June 30, 2001)
Brothers with Heart
Joseph D'Agnese and Chris Buck

Four brothers, close since childhood, are collaborating on the development of organs made from a patient's own tissue. Before long, custom-grown body parts may replace transplants

In April 1994 Chuck and Jay got a chance to prove what could be done in a human. They met Sean McCormack, 12, who had been born with a protruding sternum and no cartilage or bone under the skin of his left torso. Unprotected, his heart could be seen beating just below the skin. As a Little League pitcher, he badly needed a chest wall. Boston's Children's Hospital let the Vacantis conduct a procedure so bizarre the Food and Drug Administration had no regulations to cover it. The doctors harvested cartilage cells from Sean's sternum to seed a flat, round scaffold about the size of a compact disc. Awash in nutrients, the cells multiplied and permeated the polymer. Weeks later the construct was inserted in Sean's chest. As his body grew, it incorporated the shield for his heart; seven years later, he's a star BMX bicycle racer.

The journal Tissue Engineering publishes the latest cutting-edge research. Its home on the Web is