Videofetoscopically assisted fetal tissue engineering: Bladder augmentation

Dario O. Fauza, Steven J. Fishman, Kathryn Mehegan, Anthony Atala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Background/Purpose: Treatment of several congenital anomalies is frequently hindered by lack of enough tissue for surgical reconstruction in the neonatal period. Minimally invasive harvest of fetal tissue, which is then processed through tissue engineering techniques in vitro while pregnancy is allowed to continue so that at delivery a newborn with a prenatally diagnosed congenital anomaly can benefit from having autologous, expanded tissue promptly available for surgical reconstruction at birth. This concept was applied to a bladder defect. Methods: Bladder exstrophy was surgically created in ten 90-to 95-day gestation fetal lambs, which were divided in two groups. In group I, a small fetal bladder specimen was harvested through a minimally invasive technique (videofetoscopy). Urothelial and smooth muscle cells were then separately cultivated and expanded in vitro for 55 to 60 days, resulting in a total of approximately 200 million cells. Seven to 10 days before delivery, the cells were seeded in two layers in a 16- to 20- cm2, 3-mm thick biodegradable polyglycolic acid polymer matrix. One to 4 days after delivery, autologous engineered tissue was used for surgical augmentation of the exstrophic bladder. In group II, no harvest was performed, and the bladder exstrophy was primarily closed after delivery. In both groups, a catheter was left inside the bladder for 3 weeks, at which time a cystogram was performed and the catheter then removed. In all animals, at 60 days, another cystogram was performed and urodynamic studies of the bladder were performed. The bladder was then removed for histological analysis. Results: Fetal survival rate was 100%. One newborn died immediately after the implantation of the engineered bladder from an anesthetic accident. The other nine (four in group I and five in group II) survived. One of the animals from group I lost its bladder catheter prematurely and had a urinary leak detected only at the time of death. There were no other complications. The engineered bladders were more compliant (P < .05) and had greater capacity pressures greater than 20 mm Hg (P < .05) than those closed primarily. Histological analysis of the engineered tissue showed a multilayered urothelial lining on the luminal side and overlying layers of smooth muscle cells surrounded by connective tissue. Conclusions: Videofetoscopically assisted fetal bladder engineering may be a viable alternative for prompt bladder reconstruction at birth. The architecture of autologous engineered fetal bladder tissue resembles that of native bladder. This concept may prove useful for the treatment of certain human neonatal conditions such as bladder and cloacal exstrophies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-12
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998


  • Bladder
  • Bladder exstrophy
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Fetal surgery
  • Tissue engineering
  • Transplantation
  • Videofetoscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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