Susanne Posel, Contributor
Researchers are pursuing custom, lab-grown replacement of organs, rather than relying on organ donors. Experts in the field of regenerative medicine want to see this development become the future of medical treatment.
Recently, Swedish scientists successfully created acustom vein for a little girl which carries blood from her intestines to her liver.
Another patient was implanted with a new trachea, grown in a lab with his own cells.
Japanese researchers have implanted lab-grown livers created from human cells into mice. RIKEN Center for Development Biology, reported that in Japan, embryonic stem cells grown within special conditions will spontaneously organize themselves into partial pituitary glands that are completely functional after transplanted into test mice.
Recent developments in this field are paving the way for more options for faulty or damaged body parts.
In 1998 to 2006, by collecting cells from dysfunctional bladders from children with spinal cord defects, Atala multiplied the cells in the lab and studied them on biodegradable scaffolding. After nearly a month of research, the cells had overgrown the scaffolding and essentially created a new bladder.
The technology created a new paradigm of growing spare parts from patient’s cells.
Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, participated in the experiment that led to the first lab-grown organ transplanted into a human body. Atala, whose background is in urology and pediatrics, was inspired to assist children suffering from faulty bladder replacements. Atala explains: “That’s when I really thought, ‘Why not try to grow these children new bladders from their own cells?’”
The Wake Forest University Laboratory is a facility located on an academic college controlled by the US government. Trials preformed on injured soldiers from the US Armed Forces showed that healthy skin cells could be processed and sprayed onto battle wounds to assist in the body’s natural healing.
During the analysis process, inkjet printers were used to scan the wounds and create custom mapping of the affected areas.
Atala says: “After the scan, the [organic] printer can go back and print multiple layers of cells right over the wound.”
The notion of using a patient’s own cells rather than relying on those of a donor’s eliminates the need to find a “match.” Using the patient’s own cells also reduces the possibility of the body’s rejection of the organ after surgery.
“These organs would be available on demand and thereby overcome donor organ shortage,” says Harvard Medical School’s Harald Ott, lead author of a paper published in this issue of Nature Medicine detailing lab-grown lungs.