Advanced Tissue Sciences (ATS) reported at a recentMontgomery Securities meeting in New York that it plans totake its expertise in growing human skin, bone and cartilageinto the realm of facial reconstruction.

The La Jolla, Calif., company (NASDAQ:ATIS) plans to take "awhole new approach to wound healing" by combining its coretissue-growing technology with computer contour mappingtechniques to reconstruct the faces of children born withabnormalities, said Arthur Benvenuto, ATS's chairman.

"Using computer contour mapping, we can form differentshapes and density polymers to use as scaffolds for growingcartilage and bone tissue," said Jim Linton, ATS's manager forinvestor relations.

ATS gained access to computer mapping techniques last month,Linton said, when it acquired Neomorphics and its twofoldfocus: transplantation of engineered tissue and thedevelopment and application of biopolymers. Neomorphics ofLexington, Mass., uses scaffolds to grow organs inside the body,complementing ATS's approach of growing organs outside thebody.

ATS now has all the necessary components to pursue its visionof growing a composite of bone, skin and cartilage for facialreconstruction. But Linton would not predict when ATS wouldenter human trials with this technique.

ATS is in advanced preclinical trials for developing cartilage forreconstruction and articular resurfacing. ATS showed in animalmodels the ability to contour-map a particular 3-D scaffold andseed cartilage-producing cells onto the scaffold itself forreconstruction, Linton said.

The scaffold was then implanted into an animal to allowproduction of functional living cartilage tissue around the 3-Dscaffold restructive. After six months the cartilage wasremoved and showed the visual appearance and strength ofnormal cartilage.

Under the same trial to demonstrate arterial resurfacing ofdamaged joints, ATS showed that cartilage grown outside thebody can be implanted into defects made in animal joints. Theresulting healed cartilage had a smooth gliding surface andhistological qualities nearly identical to the normal surroundingcartilage, Linton said.

"We're not sure yet which approach is best," he said. "We'veused two different approaches -- growing cartilage inside andoutside the body -- and the results gave us strong indicationthat we could go to the next level," Linton told BioWorld. "Boneand cartilage as individual applications have great potentialtogether to address facial reconstruction as well asindependently," he said.

-- Michelle Slade Associate Editor

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