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Organ-Specific “Tissue Papers” Created from Extracellular Matrix Ink



Review of ““Tissue Papers” from Organ-Specific Decellularized Extracellular Matrices” from Advanced Functional Materials by Stuart P. Atkinson

The decellularization of tissues or organs leaves behind an extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffold comprised of non-water soluble structural proteins [1] that clinicians have long employed as part of reparative/regenerative therapies [2]. One common therapeutic approach involves the recellularization of entire tissue/organ ECM skeletons with stem and somatic cells and subsequent reimplantation. However, this strategy suffers from particular technical and practical drawbacks that have limited successful application.

These problems led researchers from the laboratory of Ramille N. Shah (Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA) to appraise another promising strategy. In their new study, Jakus et al. describe the rapid and straightforward fabrication of “tissue papers” (TPs) from tissue/organ-specific decellularized ECM “inks” which can support stem cell and tissue growth [3].

To create TPs, so named due to their handling and textural characteristics, the authors first combined powdered decellularized ECM (obtained by dicing, decellularizing, washing, lyophilizing, and mechanically milling various tissues) with a biodegradable elastomer (polylactic-co-glycolic acid) in a solvent mixture to create an ECM “ink”. Subsequently, the authors simply cast each tissue-specific ink into a mold, evaporated the solvent, and washed to produce porous, highly micro- and nano-textured TPs that remained mechanically robust, even after storage for up to one year. Importantly, each TP differed in porosity, topography, and mechanical properties related to its tissue of origin.

Seeding of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) onto TPs derived from different tissues (heart, kidney, liver, muscle, ovary, and uterus) permitted cell adhesion, proliferation, and migration over four weeks without TP degradation. Interestingly, each TP type led to the growth of cells with distinct variations in cell morphologies, indicating a tissue-specific hMSC response. Additional testing also highlighted the ability of ovarian TPs to support the adhesion and viability of mouse ovarian follicles and non-human primate and human ovarian cortical tissue for eight weeks.

The authors hope that their new “tissue paper” approach for utilizing decellularized ECM will extend across all species and all organs (including but not limited to lung, pancreas, testes, prostate, bladder, and peripheral and central nerves!) and may even find use in the creation of specific organ regions or diseased tissue for modeling purposes. Furthermore, they note the potential synergism with bioprinting to improve and extend this exciting new therapeutic strategy.

The potential for tissue papers is plain to see, so keep up to date with the Stem Cells Portal to see all the studies and clinical breakthroughs!


  1. Theocharis AD, Skandalis SS, Gialeli C, et al. Extracellular matrix structure. Adv Drug Deliv Rev 2016;97:4-27.
  2. Swinehart IT and Badylak SF. Extracellular matrix bioscaffolds in tissue remodeling and morphogenesis. Dev Dyn 2016;245:351-360.
  3. Jakus AE, Laronda MM, Rashedi AS, et al. “Tissue Papers” from Organ-Specific Decellularized Extracellular Matrices. Advanced Functional Materials 2017;27:1700992.