a1 Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02114, USA
Optimal nutrition depends on the multiple complex functions performed by the gastrointestinal tract, which range from basic functions such as storage, conduit and mechanical processing to more finely regulated capabilities such as vectorial transport, immune defence and cell signalling. Surgical strategies to supply lacking gastrointestinal tract tissues have relied on either replacement by proxy (surgical substitution) or the introduction of prostheses. Tissue engineering seeks to replace missing tissues with engineered tissues that more accurately reproduce the native physiological and anatomical milieu. It is now possible to engineer several areas of the gastrointestinal tract with high fidelity, and to employ tissue-engineered bowel in replacement in animal models. These replacement models have reflected excellent anatomical and physiological recapitulation of native bowel by the tissue-engineered constructs in vivo.