The mission of the Center for Integrated Tissue Engineering (CITE) is to provide experimental in vitro and in vivo three-dimensional (3D) human tissue models that recapitulate the complex tissue architecture and signaling networks present in human tissue in vivo. Through the fabrication and analysis of 3D tissues, CITE generates novel experimental paradigms that: (1) enable investigation into the complex interplay between multiple cell and tissue types in biologically-meaningful, 3D tissue context, (2) provide a more comprehensive and global picture of how disease-associated pathways interact with their local microenvironment, and (3) serve as human, “pre-clinical” or “surrogate” tissues that set the stage for the translation of discoveries to the clinic through strategies that will allow target identification and validation in human tissues.
With the increasing need for bi-directional interactions between basic and clinical scientists, CITE has developed powerful new research tools that can help meet the broad scientific needs of the translational research community. Conventional basic science approaches to the dissection of complex biological systems have been based primarily on experimentation in 2D, monolayer culture systems. However, the power of these approaches to simulate biological processes in human tissues has been limited. In light of this, it is now widely accepted that cellular and tissue responses need to be studied in experimental systems that incorporate appropriate 3D context and faithfully mimic their in vivo counterparts. Such 3D tissues generated at CITE now: (1) Allow evaluation of candidate drugs and compounds in human tissues as novel platforms for design and screening of drugs targeted for specific therapeutic applications; (2) Provide validated tissue models for product screening that can predict their safety and efficacy in human tissues as alternatives to animal testing; and (3) Accelerate the translational pipeline by validating discovery of disease targets made in conventional 2D culture systems in 3D human tissues.
CITE is providing these services in 3D tissue biology to a broad variety of industrial and academic scientists both within the Tufts community and beyond as a portal to discovery of pathways linked to human disease pathophysiology that now serve as a paradigm for clinical translation.