top of page

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Thanks for submitting!

Navigating Regulatory Requirements for Human Cells and Tissues in the Life Science Industry

Delve into the pivotal role of quality and regulatory consulting firms in ensuring that HCT/Ps meet stringent standards, ultimately contributing to a healthier and safer future.

In the dynamic and innovative landscape of the life science industry, the regulation of Human Cells and Tissues (HCT/Ps) stands out as a complex and evolving area. HCT/Ps, defined in 21 CFR 1271.3(d) as articles containing or consisting of human cells or tissues intended for implantation, transplantation, infusion, or transfer into a human recipient, represent a crucial component of modern medical advancements.

These materials hold the promise of treating a wide array of diseases and conditions, from regenerating damaged tissues to enhancing the body's natural healing mechanisms.

However, the unique nature of HCT/Ps necessitates careful regulation to ensure their safety, efficacy, and overall quality. In response to these challenges, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed and implemented a tiered, risk-based approach to HCT/P regulation in 2005.

Tiered, Risk-Based Approach

Under this tiered, risk-based approach, HCT/Ps that meet specific criteria or fall within detailed exceptions do not require premarket review and approval. The overarching focus of this regulatory strategy is to address critical public health and regulatory concerns:

  1. Preventing Communicable Disease Transmission: One of the foremost concerns is preventing the transmission of communicable diseases through HCT/Ps. Robust processing controls are necessary to safeguard against contamination that could render these products unsafe or ineffective.

  2. Preserving Integrity and Function: Maintaining the integrity and function of HCT/Ps is paramount. This ensures that these products perform as intended, promoting clinical safety and effectiveness.

The regulatory framework for HCT/Ps is encapsulated in a set of regulations often referred to as the "tissue rules."

These rules are issued by the FDA through notice and comment rulemaking under the communicable disease authority of section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 264) and can be found in 21 CFR Part 1271.

Criteria for Regulation

One of the key elements in determining the regulatory pathway for HCT/Ps is whether they meet specific criteria outlined in 21 CFR 1271.10(a). An HCT/P can be regulated solely under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act and 21 CFR Part 1271 if it satisfies all of the following criteria:

  1. Minimal Manipulation: The HCT/P must be minimally manipulated, as defined in 21 CFR 1271.3(f). This means that processing should not alter the original relevant characteristics of the tissue or cells.

  2. Homologous Use: The HCT/P must be intended for homologous use only, as indicated by the labeling, advertising, or other indications of the manufacturer's objective intent. Homologous use involves repairing, reconstructing, replacing, or supplementing a recipient's cells or tissues with an HCT/P that performs the same basic function as in the donor.

  3. No Combination with Other Articles: The manufacture of the HCT/P should not involve the combination of cells or tissues with another article, except for water, crystalloids, or a sterilizing, preserving, or storage agent. Importantly, the addition of these substances should not raise new clinical safety concerns.

  4. Systemic Effect or Metabolic Activity: If the HCT/P has a systemic effect or is dependent upon the metabolic activity of living cells for its primary function, it must meet specific conditions related to autologous use, allogeneic use in close blood relatives, or reproductive use.

If an HCT/P does not meet these criteria and the establishment that manufactures the HCT/P does not qualify for any of the exceptions provided in 21 CFR 1271.156, it will be subject to regulation as a drug, device, and/or biological product under the FD&C Act and/or section 351 of the PHS Act. Consequently, premarket review and approval will be mandatory.

Understanding "Minimal Manipulation" and "Homologous Use"

Two critical criteria that play a pivotal role in determining the regulatory pathway for HCT/Ps are "minimal manipulation" and "homologous use."

Minimal Manipulation (21 CFR 1271.10(a)(1)): Minimal manipulation, as defined in 21 CFR 1271.3(f), involves processing that does not alter the original relevant characteristics of the tissue or cells.

This ensures that the processed HCT/P remains suitable for its intended use. When assessing minimal manipulation, it is essential to demonstrate that the processing does not go beyond this definition.

Homologous Use (21 CFR 1271.10(a)(2)): Homologous use, as defined in 21 CFR 1271.3(c), refers to the repair, reconstruction, replacement, or supplementation of a recipient's cells or tissues with an HCT/P that performs the same basic function as in the donor.

This criterion underscores the importance of ensuring that HCT/Ps are used in a manner consistent with their intended purpose, promoting safety and predictability in their functionality.


Manufacturers and healthcare providers in the life science industry must be diligent in assessing their products and ensuring compliance with these criteria. By doing so, they can contribute to the advancement of innovative therapies while upholding the highest standards of safety and quality in the field of HCT/Ps.

As this dynamic field continues to evolve, staying informed and adaptable to regulatory changes will be key to success in bringing these life-changing therapies to patients.

Contact BioBoston Consulting today or visit our website to learn more about how we can support your organization.

5 views0 comments
bottom of page