American scientists from North Carolina’s Wake Forest University have implanted the first laboratory-engineered organs, grown from the patients’ own cells.
Breakthrough claimed in lab-produced organ transplants
To grow new bladder tissue, his team biopsied cells from the muscle and lining of the bladder walls in individual patients. These cells were cultured in the lab, then seeded onto a specially constructed, biodegradable mould, or scaffold, shaped like a bladder.
Over the next two months, the cells continued to grow into the mould, which was then sutured to the patient’s original bladder. (The mould degrades as the bladder tissue integrates with the body.)
The first implant took place in 1999, and so far seven patients aged four to 19, who had poor bladder function because of spina bifida, have received transplants. The BBC reports (emphasis added):
The researchers surgically attached the engineered bladder to the patient’s own bladder and followed progress for up to five years.
This is astonishing news. The technology avoids the moral dilemmas of organ transplants from donors, and from embryonic stem cell research.
While the technology is clearly in its infancy, I dare predict that the results would be even more encouraging than those of heart transplants thirty years ago.