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Cell therapy involves the delivery of cells into damaged or diseased tissue to induce regeneration or repair. The direct transplantation of cells without carrier systems, however, results in the vast majority dying rapidly once they are placed in the body. Limitations encountered with direct cell infusions may be eliminated by their local delivery using biomaterial carrier systems. Cell encapsulation in appropriate biomaterials is a promising approach for long-term delivery of therapeutic agents. The biomaterial-based methodology for cell therapy has proven successful for the regeneration of a number of tissues including bone, myocardium, cornea, and liver. Alginate hydrogels in particular, have received considerable attention for the therapeutic delivery of cells and for the formation of tissue intended for transplantation. Advantages of alginate gels include easily tuneable biophysical properties, immunoisolatory abilities, and excellent biocompatibility. The biomechanical and biochemical properties of alginate gels can be modified to create biomimetic systems which direct stem cell phenotype, support in situ tissue engineering and preserve therapeutic cells. In this chapter we describe the versatility of alginate encapsulation technology in the context of its application to cell-based therapies. We focus on cell types that are at the preclinical stages of therapeutic application.

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