Respiratory Tissue Engineering: Current Status and Opportunities for the Future.

Currently, lung disease and major airway trauma constitute a major global healthcare burden with limited treatment options. Airway diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis have been identified as the fifth highest cause of mortality worldwide and are estimated to rise to fourth place by 2030. Alternate approaches and therapeutic modalities are urgently needed to improve clinical outcomes for chronic lung disease. This can be achieved through tissue engineering of the respiratory tract. Interest is growing in the use of airway tissue-engineered constructs as both a research tool, to further our understanding of airway pathology, validate new drugs, and pave the way for novel drug therapies, and also as regenerative medical devices or as an alternative to transplant tissue. This review provides a concise summary of the field of respiratory tissue engineering to date. An initial overview of airway anatomy and physiology is given, followed by a description of the stem cell populations and signaling processes involved in parenchymal healing and tissue repair. We then focus on the different biomaterials and tissue-engineered systems employed in upper and lower respiratory tract engineering and give a final perspective of the opportunities and challenges facing the field of respiratory tissue engineering.