The term "tissue engineering" refers to methods that promote the regrowth of cells lost to trauma or disease. Tissue engineers use many methods, including the manipulation of artificial and natural materials that provide structure and biochemical instructions to young cells as they grow into specific kinds of tissue. These materials are called scaffolds because they provide support and materials for tissue regrowth in the same way that a scaffold supports workers and materials for a building under construction.
The ideal scaffold delivers just the right amount of support and chemical cues and is harmlessly broken down by the body as new tissue replaces it. The McGowan Institute is a pioneer in the development of scaffold materials, some of which are in clinical use worldwide.