A team of researchers from the University of Liverpool in the UK have embarked on an ambitious project which could see human tissue grown from stem cells, available for transplant in the next four years.
It is their plan to develop the technology in order to target heart failure, diabetes, chronic ulcers and degenerative diseases.
Hopefully, the emerging technology may eventually be used to treat conditions such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, burns and spinal cord damage.
It could also be used as a "repair kit" for the body, by generating healthy tissue to replace tissue damaged by disease or injury.
The project which is funded by the European Commission, to the tune of £17 million, intends to develop tissue engineering a step further by collaborating with 23 academic and industrial partners from across the continent.
Professor David Williams, Director of the UK Centre For Tissue Engineering at the University of Liverpool, says to date there has been little success in engineering tissue on a consistent basis.
He hopes this programme will bring together complementary skills and build a system whereby cells and stem cells can be taken from patients and used to regenerate new ones, and that the research will help a variety of debilitating illnesses and degenerative diseases.
Professor Williams believes the science already exists, but a more consistent and reliable way of producing results is needed.
Tissue engineering involves taking human cells, such as stem cells, from blood or bone marrow, and encouraging those cells to produce new tissue through the use of growth factors.
The Liverpool researchers have been developing methods of growing a variety of tissue, including human arteries, from adult stem cells.
They believe that blood vessels grown in the laboratory could possibly be used to replace furred up arteries in patients suffering from coronary heart disease.
This new project, called 'A Systems Approach to Tissue Engineering Products and Processes' (STEPS), is one of the largest research contracts in Europe.