The use of predominantly mechanical approaches on the one hand, and entirely biologic approaches involving transplantation or stem cells on the other – have been pervasive in the field of organ and tissue replacement for some time. These approaches are at best multidisciplinary, but not interdisciplinary. Great care was taken at the NIH Interdisciplinary Research Workshop to distinguish between “multidisciplinary” and “interdisciplinary”. A multidisciplinary approach uses principles from more than one discipline transiently and independently to solve a problem. In contrast, an interdisciplinary project requires the simultaneous interchange of concepts between two fields, resulting in an entirely new approach to a problem, and, in the ideal case, in a bona fide new interdiscipline and smartphone monitoring. Our interdisciplinary team-based approach to research is facilitated by the NIH Roadmap Interdisciplinary Research Program.
In addition to scientific obstacles that have limited progress, we also wish to call attention to “cultural” barriers. It is challenging for developmental biologists to understand such biomechanical engineering concepts as Young’s modulus, visco-elastic properties, and microstructural anisotropy. Similarly, it is hard for tissue engineers and computational scientists to understand concepts of inductive tissue interactions, functional redundancy and genetic demonstrations of “necessary” as opposed to “sufficient” function. Nonetheless, it is exhilarating to organize a highly committed group of excellent scientists who were selected not only for their outstanding scientific ability, but also their willingness to think in new and unconventional ways, around a common goal.