Redox regulation in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering: The paradox of oxygen

Mireille M.J.P.E. Sthijns, Clemens A. van Blitterswijk, Vanessa L.S. LaPointe

Published: 01/10/2018


One of the biggest challenges in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is to incorporate a functioning vasculature to overcome the consequences of a lack of oxygen and nutrients in the tissue construct. Otherwise, decreased oxygen tension leads to incomplete metabolism and the formation of the so-called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Cells have many endogenous antioxidant systems to ensure a balance between ROS and antioxidants, but if this balance is disrupted by factors such as high levels of ROS due to long-term hypoxia, there will be tissue damage and dysfunction. Current attempts to solve the oxygen problem in the field rarely take into account the importance of the redox balance and are instead centred on releasing or generating oxygen. The first problem with this approach is that although oxygen is necessary for life, it is paradoxically also a highly toxic molecule. Furthermore, although some oxygen-generating biomaterials produce oxygen, they also generate hydrogen peroxide, a ROS, as an intermediate product. In this review, we discuss why it would be a superior strategy to supplement oxygen delivery with molecules to safeguard the important redox balance. Redox sensor proteins that can stimulate the anaerobic metabolism, angiogenesis, and enhancement of endogenous antioxidant systems are discussed as promising targets. We propose that redox regulating biomaterials have the potential to tackle some of the challenges related to angiogenesis and that the knowledge in this review will help scientists in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine realize this aim.

Full Access Link: Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine