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Exercise 1 - Introduction to the CAT in Reading

Instructions: Read the following passage, and answer the questions that follow. The Answer box at the bottom of the choices will tell you if your answer is correct.

This passage was adapted from Piece by Piece by Randall C. Willis. Modern Drug Discovery, September 2004.

Is tissue engineering a viable medical option to permanently repair damage to the body?

     In the two decades since chemical engineering professor Robert Langer and surgeon Joseph Vacanti first proposed tissue engineering as a panacea for many human ailments, enthusiasm for the field has ebbed and flowed. While some researchers have focused on its potential to replace lost organ function, allowing patients to get rid of dialysis machines, insulin needles, and walkers, others have looked at parallel advances in therapeutics and mechanical prosthetics and argued that the return on investment was too low for the field to grow. The reality lies somewhere in between.

     David Williams, a researcher at the U.K. Centre for Tissue Engineering, recently described the field as, "The essence of tissue engineering is that those cells capable of initiating and sustaining the regeneration process are 'switched on,' (… ) so that they generate new functional tissue of the required variety."

     For years, engineers have been developing mechanical devices to replace many body functions. Why should a physician fix an arrhythmic heart with modified cardiac tissue when a pacemaker works so well? Why should an arthroscopic surgeon replace joint cartilage with bioengineered tissues when knee replacement surgery is so successful?

     As Williams explains it, "We have, therefore, a situation in which the costs of the development of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine will have pharmaceutical dimensions (i.e., high research and development costs), but with rewards that will be similar to those associated with the conventional medical devices they are replacing."

     Pacemakers and mechanical knee joints, however, wear out and need to be replaced. As a result, researchers and clinicians are looking beyond these measures designed to alleviate human suffering for a span of years or, at most, decades. Instead, they are trying to identify ways in which they can repair damage to the body permanently, by allowing it to incorporate healthy tissue capable of regeneration.
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