• The Science Center will be closed on June 30 for Heinz Field Concert. The Rangos will be open.

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If a Starfish Can Grow a New Arm, Why Can't I?

Presented in partnership with:

The exhibit is funded by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health.

Tissue Engineering

Tissue Engineering. A phrase that is exciting, mysterious, and controversial. From better skin grafts for burn victims to entire replacement body parts grown in laboratories, this science holds great promise for future generations.

This exhibition presents the basic sciences behind this complex topic and gives some real-world perspectives and applications so that visitors to the Science Center can become familiar with developments happening today.

For young visitors, it also is a chance to discover the job opportunities possible in a wide range of fields-from applied science to government policy to design and engineering careers.

For everyone, it's a chance to learn a bit more about how humans are put together, what happens when we get injured or diseased, how we heal, and how we might be able to improve and enhance these processes.

What's it all about?

Developed with a Science and Education advisory panel of teachers and leading researchers in the field today, the educational objective of this exhibit is to familiarize visitors with the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Depending on which areas of the exhibit you have the time and desire to visit, you should be able to learn several of the following key points:

  • All living things are composed of cells.
  • Cells have specialized functions.
  • Groups of cells working together form specialized tissues, such as muscle, nerve, and connective (such as bone and cartilage) tissues.
  • Groups of tissues combine to form organs.
  • Some less complex animals, like our headliner the starfish (or sea star), can regenerate major parts of their bodies.
  • More complex animals, including humans, can regenerate, but this is limited to smaller parts of our bodies (like blood, hair, and fingernails).
  • A distinguishing feature of animals that can regenerate tissue after injury-like the starfish-is the formation of the blastema, a zone of progenitor cells, at the injury site.
  • How the blastema grows to produce a replica of the missing part is one of the most alluring aspects of regeneration.
  • Several biological, engineering, chemical, and medical science disciplines combine to make up the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
  • The possibility of growing replacement human tissues to construct an organ outside the body is a relatively new development, but it is exciting and happening today in Pittsburgh!
  • The future of tissue engineering and stem cell research holds great promise for us as a new way for doctors to treat illnesses and injuries.
  • As with all biomedical advances, there are ethical considerations with tissue engineering and stem cell research, as well as myths and misinformation.

The exhibition is divided into three sections:

The Natural World

This set of four activities explores the basic biology of cells-their form, purpose, abilities, and specializations.

The Science of Tissue Engineering

Three activity areas let you learn about some of the research going on today and try your hand at some cool virtual experiments.

Clinical Applications, Ethics, Issues, and Answers

Hear first-hand leading researchers talk about tissue engineering applications today and in the future, find answers to commonly asked questions, and register your opinions on some of the ethical issues involved in tissue engineering and stem cell research.


Exhibit activities are designed for a wide range of ages and learning styles. These range from simple puzzle games for younger learners to in-depth video interviews with leading scientists in the field today. Interactive styles range from tactile, hands-on exhibits to touch-screen video games.

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