Editor: Julia Polak
Co-editors: Sakis Mantalaris and Sian E. Harding
Publisher: Imperial College Press
This book is a kind of how-to guide for translational and applied tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
It provides good coverage of the history and current state of the subject, much technical detail and methodology and, inevitably for such a topical and controversial research field, it contains lots of buzz words.
For a book that is essentially a specialised biomedical science source, it also contains lengthy discussion of ethics and legislation and a fair dose of predicting the future.
With a foreword by Lord Naren Patel of Dunkeld (chair of the UK National Stem Cell Network) this is also a book with a message, made clear at the end of the book's beautifully written introduction, in a well-phrased statement of intent: "Above all this volume shows the tremendous inventiveness and synergy that comes when biologists and physical scientists join together in a focused effort to address human disease", positioning the book and the research firmly in the domain of "translational biology".
The book begins with a useful history of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine by Robert Nerem. He explains that these are terms often used interchangeably by different researchers. He ends his chapter with the statement that the field has in the past been exciting but often overpromised and underdelivered.
Nerem also makes the point that regenerative medicine is "not just about stem cells". Nevertheless, much of the book is preoccupied with stem cells (although for a UK-based book it is oddly light on human embryonic stem cells), what they can and can't do and how they may be exploited for clinical use.
Here it would have been nice to see just one chapter on how to definitively demonstrate stem-cell function and multipotentiality.
Unusually for this kind of book, the chapters move from political to financial, industry to clinical and basic biology concerns - perhaps reflecting a new (more translational) approach to biomedical science. Although long and detailed, the book is more of a snapshot than an exhaustive guide to this diverse and rapidly moving research area.
Among the best bits are the technical chapters on materials and scaffolds and the stem-cell success stories: Donald G. Phinney's section on (bone) marrow stem cells and Sheila MacNeil's chapter on tissue engineered skin, which was "the first out of the stable of tissues that could be made from biopsies of patient's skin and then delivered back to them", now regularly used for treating burns patients.
It is no accident that these successes also arise from the best-understood stem-cell systems. The last chapter of the book deals with artificial lungs, an astonishingly bold concept that is almost science fiction but nevertheless a real and exciting approach, with many potential clinical applications.
Who is it for? Essentially this is a researcher's source book - a collection of essays from a diverse range of specialists in the burgeoning biomedical field of regenerative medicine/tissue engineering. It will prove invaluable for researchers in this area and will also be of interest to a wider audience in the bioscience, biotechnology and biomedical research communities.
Presentation: If you are looking for a concise guide to tissue engineering, this is not it. It is a fascinating but dense book - not one to read cover to cover in one sitting but a great book to dip into, to use as a reference and as a platform for further research into this potentially revolutionary area of biomedicine.
Would you recommend it? Yes, as a good source text to any undergraduate or postgraduate working on a research topic in the area, to any researcher wanting an overview of this field, and to our university library for purchase.