In the fight against disease, defect and injury, Alan Russell has a novel argument: Why not engineer new tissue and organs to replace sick ones?

Why you should listen

Alan Russell is a professor of surgery -- and of chemical engineering. In crossing the two fields, he is expanding our palette of treatments for disease, injury and congenital defects. We can treat symptoms, he says, or we can replace our damaged parts with bioengineered tissue. As he puts it: "If newts can regenerate a lost limb, why can't we?"

The founding director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, at the University of Pittsburgh, Russell leads an ambitious biomedicine program that explores tissue engineering, stem cell research, biosurgery and artificial and biohybrid organs. They've also started testing a new kind of heart pump, figured out that Botox can help with enlarged prostate, and identified human adipose cells as having the possibility to repair skeletal muscle. In his own Russell Lab, his team has studied antimicrobial surfaces and helping to develop a therapy to reduce scarring on muscle after injury. Lately, his lab is involved in biotechnology studies in relation to chemical and biological weapons defense. 

He's also co-founder of Agentase, a company that makes an enzyme-based detector for chemical warfare agents.

What others say

"Russell's own research, a blend of biotech and chemical engineering, is directed at finding ways to put biological molecules into everyday materials." — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Alan Russell’s TED talks

Alan Russell on the TED Blog

Stem cell news is a step forward for regenerative medicine

November 21, 2007

This morning’s pair of announcements on human stem cell research marks a step forward for regenerative medicine — the study of regrowing or repairing body parts, using the body’s own processes. Alan Russell’s 2006 TEDTalk is a fascinating roundup of what regenerative medicine could bring: revolutionary treatments for heart disease, severe burns, even the loss […]

Continue reading

Why can't we grow new body parts? Alan Russell on TED.com

July 5, 2007

Alan Russell studies regenerative medicine, a breakthrough way of treating disease and injury by helping the body to rebuild itself. He shows how engineered tissue that “speaks the body’s language” has helped a man regrow his lost fingertip, how stem cells can rebuild damaged heart muscle, and how cell therapy can regenerate the skin of […]

Continue reading

Quotes from Alan Russell

The richer we are, the longer we live. And the longer we live, the more expensive it is to take care of our diseases as we get older.
Alan Russell
TED2006 • 1M views Jul 2007
Fascinating, Jaw-dropping
There are very few things you can really do [to promote] healthy aging … and none of these things include an insurance system or a legal system. All those things do is change who pays.
Alan Russell
TED2006 • 1M views Jul 2007
Fascinating, Jaw-dropping
We need to learn to speak the body’s language and to switch on processes that we knew how to do when we were a fetus. A mammalian fetus, if it loses a limb during the first trimester of pregnancy, will re-grow that limb.
Alan Russell
TED2006 • 1M views Jul 2007
Fascinating, Jaw-dropping