Systematic Review

The Ethical Implications of Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Purposes: A Systematic Review

Anne-Floor J. de Kanter , Karin R. Jongsma , Marianne C. Verhaar , and Annelien L. Bredenoord

Published: 10 April 2023


Tissue Engineering (TE) is a branch of Regenerative Medicine (RM) that combines stem cells and biomaterial scaffolds to create living tissue constructs to restore patients’ organs after injury or disease. Over the last decade, emerging technologies such as 3D bioprinting, biofabrication, supramolecular materials, induced pluripotent stem cells, and organoids have entered the field. While this rapidly evolving field is expected to have great therapeutic potential, its development from bench to bedside presents several ethical and societal challenges. To make sure TE will reach its ultimate goal of improving patient welfare, these challenges should be mapped out and evaluated. Therefore, we performed a systematic review of the ethical implications of the development and application of TE for regenerative purposes, as mentioned in the academic literature. A search query in PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and PhilPapers yielded 2451 unique articles. After systematic screening, 237 relevant ethical and biomedical articles published between 2008 and 2021 were included in our review. We identified a broad range of ethical implications that could be categorized under 10 themes. Seven themes trace the development from bench to bedside: (1) animal experimentation, (2) handling human tissue, (3) informed consent, (4) therapeutic potential, (5) risk and safety, (6) clinical translation, and (7) societal impact. Three themes represent ethical safeguards relevant to all developmental phases: (8) scientific integrity, (9) regulation, and (10) patient and public involvement. This review reveals that since 2008 a significant body of literature has emerged on how to design clinical trials for TE in a responsible manner. However, several topics remain in need of more attention. These include the acceptability of alternative translational pathways outside clinical trials, soft impacts on society and questions of ownership over engineered tissues. Overall, this overview of the ethical and societal implications of the field will help promote responsible development of new interventions in TE and RM. It can also serve as a valuable resource and educational tool for scientists, engineers, and clinicians in the field by providing an overview of the ethical considerations relevant to their work.

Full Access Link: Tissue engineering. Part B, Reviews