Promoting tissue regeneration by modulating the immune system

Ziad Julier, Anthony J. Park, Priscilla S. Briquez, Mikael M. Martino

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review

250 Citations (Scopus)


The immune system plays a central role in tissue repair and regeneration. Indeed, the immune response to tissue injury is crucial in determining the speed and the outcome of the healing process, including the extent of scarring and the restoration of organ function. Therefore, controlling immune components via biomaterials and drug delivery systems is becoming an attractive approach in regenerative medicine, since therapies based on stem cells and growth factors have not yet proven to be broadly effective in the clinic. To integrate the immune system into regenerative strategies, one of the first challenges is to understand the precise functions of the different immune components during the tissue healing process. While remarkable progress has been made, the immune mechanisms involved are still elusive, and there is indication for both negative and positive roles depending on the tissue type or organ and life stage. It is well recognized that the innate immune response comprising danger signals, neutrophils and macrophages modulates tissue healing. In addition, it is becoming evident that the adaptive immune response, in particular T cell subset activities, plays a critical role. In this review, we first present an overview of the basic immune mechanisms involved in tissue repair and regeneration. Then, we highlight various approaches based on biomaterials and drug delivery systems that aim at modulating these mechanisms to limit fibrosis and promote regeneration. We propose that the next generation of regenerative therapies may evolve from typical biomaterial-, stem cell-, or growth factor-centric approaches to an immune-centric approach. Statement of Significance: Most regenerative strategies have not yet proven to be safe or reasonably efficient in the clinic. In addition to stem cells and growth factors, the immune system plays a crucial role in the tissue healing process. Here, we propose that controlling the immune-mediated mechanisms of tissue repair and regeneration may support existing regenerative strategies or could be an alternative to using stem cells and growth factors. The first part of this review we highlight key immune mechanisms involved in the tissue healing process and marks them as potential target for designing regenerative strategies. In the second part, we discuss various approaches using biomaterials and drug delivery systems that aim at modulating the components of the immune system to promote tissue regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-28
Number of pages16
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2017


  • Biomaterials
  • Cytokines
  • Drug delivery systems
  • Fibrosis
  • Immune system
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Scarring
  • T cells

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