Tengion Inc., a King of Prussia, Pa. company, has announced the completion of $50 million of financing led by Bain Capital and Quaker BioVentures. The company, co-founded by Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, is in the business of growing new bladders, aka the autologous neo-bladder constructs, for patients with neurogenic bladders associated with spina bifida and spinal cord injuries. For now their technology is in the experimental stage.
Here’s how they do it (also open up the picture above for a complete diagram):
Tengion’s technology has the potential to create new human tissues and organs (neo-tissues and neo-organs) by using the patient’s own (autologous) cells. By contrast, organ transplantation from other donors (allogenic transplants) can be associated with rejection and the adverse effects of immunosuppression.
Tengion’s patented technology integrates multiple breakthroughs in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. While it has long been held that the body contains cells with regenerative power, Tengion is the first company to be able to identify these cells and unlock their potential to create a variety of tissues and organs on a commercial scale. These progenitor cells, which come from the patient, are genetically committed to becoming a specific cell type (e.g., a bladder cell), but they are not yet fully differentiated. The cells have the potential to divide and to become functional tissue or organ.