Dr. Grikscheit is a practicing pediatric surgeon and scientist with a laboratory focused on regenerative medicine and tissue engineering at in The Saban Research Institute at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. In the hospital, she cares for children who are born prematurely, and therefore are at increased risk for multiple medical conditions that may lead to intestinal lack or loss. One of these conditions is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a potentially life-threatening intestinal problem. For the most severe cases of NEC, the only solution is surgical removal of the small intestine. However, this option leaves the baby dependent on intravenous feeding and the child is also at risk for liver damage from subsequent intravenous nutrition. Another option is small bowel transplantation, but graft and patient survival rates are still too low.
Dr. Grikscheit, a member of The Saban Research Institute's Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine program, envisions a better solution. The small intestine is an exquisitely regenerative organ. It is an elegant model to better understand organ-specific stem cells and the regenerative cells can be harnessed to make new gastrointestinal tissue for eventual clinical applications. Understanding how to generate tissue-engineered intestines, whether esophagus, stomach, small intestine, or colon, may also inform us how to expand the list of organs that can be tissue-engineered.