Advancing Tissue Engineering in Africa with Gifty Tetteh

Advancing Tissue Engineering in Africa with Gifty Tetteh
6 min read

One of the main goals of Tissue Engineering is to create artificial organs for patients that need organ transplants. Biomedical and tissue engineers are currently researching new methods of creating many of such tissues or organs.

Source: Discovery News

Source: Discovery News

“Using an inkjet printer, researchers have succeeded in printing adult eye cells for the first time. The demonstration is a step toward producing tissue implants that could cure some types of blindness.”

Research efforts in the field have been strengthened in the past 25 years. The progress made, and the eventual development of “man-made” tissues or organs offers numerous potential clinical opportunities. 

It is exciting to know that some African women are getting involved and realizing the full potential their careers will have towards the advancement of Biomedical and Tissue Engineering in Africa.

Before pursuing her Ph.D., Gifty Tetteh worked as a Teaching Assistant at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Ghana. This was where she obtained her undergraduate degree. Gifty was the first female student to top the entire Faculty of Engineering with an exceptional GPA. She later gained admission at the University of Sheffield to pursue her research.

Gifty Tetteh

Gifty Tetteh

“Being a member of a research team in a world-class research institution is what I treasure most. I have learnt new research techniques, attended many training and developmental sessions, and have had the opportunity of meeting and working with high-profile researchers.”

  • What is your research about?

“I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Engineering Materials, with focus on Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering at the University of Sheffield.   I am studying how tissue-engineered bones grow around orthopaedic implants by designing a biomimetic test system that can be used to test these implants. Field trips from my third year at the University of Ghana, and during my national service sparked my interest in Orthopaedics. My love for courses such as Biomaterials, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biotechnology and Tissue Engineering also made my decision easier.”

  • What makes this field attractive?

“It is the next big thing for us to venture into because a lot of people abroad are pursuing it and it comes with a lot of great opportunities. What makes it hot, I believe, is its application and how it can be used to save human life. You never know when you are going to lose a tissue or organ in your body because of an unfortunate accident. You might want to get that fixed or replaced thanks to advances in Tissue Engineering. There are however some challenges which might include possible hidden diseases in the tissue or organ used for this purpose. But with time, these challenges would be overcome.”

  • What is progress like for Tissue Engineering in Ghana?

“I think Tissue Engineering, especially in Ghana, is still developing. There is still a lot more to do, but I believe we can always start from somewhere instead of sitting and folding our arms while the rest of the world makes progress. Hopefully, in the near future, things will start to pick up, but only when Ghana is ready.”

  • What do you love about what you do?

“I love this field because, depending on how far I go, my research will be very applicable. Statistics show that a lot of people on a yearly basis are getting implants fixed inside of them because they have lost bones due to one accident or the other. Hence, if I am able to come up with a good test system that explains how effective implants are, as well as how they interact with naturally-occurring bones in the human body, new bones could be grown effectively to replace failing ones without the patient having to wait for a donor. I am also doing some things I love like organizing and being a part of outreach events both in the UK and in Ghana. I was recently in Ghana to organize a few of these events for students interested in Tissue Engineering, but who might not have the practical experience I have been having. I spend a lot of time going to schools as a mentor to inform people about tissue engineering.”

  • What are your plans for the future?

“After completing my course, I wish to return to my country and impart the remarkable knowledge and expertise that I have gained, and contribute to the development of the human resources of my nation. I would like to continue with my outreach events and mentorship programs. I hope that in the future I would be able to merge the two so that we can have a lot more of our people involved in Tissue Engineering. We should also be able to set up our own labs in the near future.”

  • Any final words for those looking up to you?

“I will entreat you to persevere, push yourself to the limit and make the most use of the opportunities that are available to you now from your teachers/lecturers and books, to the scarce facilities available in the country. Seek counsel and take time in making decisions and choices, and all will be well with you.  I am glad I studied Biomedical Engineering at the University of Ghana.  I was tutored and guided by some great lecturers, who helped me make the informed decisions I made on my journey from my undergraduate studies to my graduate studies.  The journey was not smooth sailing but every sacrifice and experience has been worth it because I am living my dream.”