Towards autotrophic tissue engineering: Photosynthetic gene therapy for regeneration

Myra Noemi Chávez, Thilo Ludwig Schenck, Ursula Hopfner, Carolina Centeno-Cerdas, Ian Somlai-Schweiger, Christian Schwarz, Hans Günther Machens, Mathias Heikenwalder, María Rosa Bono, Miguel L. Allende, Jörg Nickelsen, José Tomás Egaña

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


The use of artificial tissues in regenerative medicine is limited due to hypoxia. As a strategy to overcome this drawback, we have shown that photosynthetic biomaterials can produce and provide oxygen independently of blood perfusion by generating chimeric animal-plant tissues during dermal regeneration. In this work, we demonstrate the safety and efficacy of photosynthetic biomaterials in vivo after engraftment in a fully immunocompetent mouse skin defect model. Further, we show that it is also possible to genetically engineer such photosynthetic scaffolds to deliver other key molecules in addition to oxygen. As a proof-of-concept, biomaterials were loaded with gene modified microalgae expressing the angiogenic recombinant protein VEGF. Survival of the algae, growth factor delivery and regenerative potential were evaluated in vitro and in vivo. This work proposes the use of photosynthetic gene therapy in regenerative medicine and provides scientific evidence for the use of engineered microalgae as an alternative to deliver recombinant molecules for gene therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Algae biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Drug delivery
  • Hypoxia
  • Molecular therapy
  • Oxygen
  • Regenerative medicine


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