Tissue engineering was once categorised as a subfield of Biomaterials, but having grown in scope and importance it can be considered as a field in its own right. It is the use of a combination of cells, engineering and materials methods, and suitable biochemical and physio-chemical factors to improve or replace biological functions. While most definitions of tissue engineering cover a broad range of applications, in practice the term is closely associated with applications that repair or replace portions of or whole tissues (i.e., bone, cartilage, blood vessels, bladder, etc.). Often, the tissues involved require certain mechanical and structural properties for proper functioning. The term has also been applied to efforts to perform specific biochemical functions using cells within an artificially-created support system (e.g. an artificial pancreas, or a bioartificial liver). The term regenerative medicine is often used synonymously with tissue engineering, although those involved in regenerative medicine place more emphasis on the use of stem cells to produce tissues.
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