At the current situation, there is a shortage of healthy organs. The donor and patient also have to be closely matched and there are chances for the patient’s immune system may reject the transplant. Right now, researchers are seriously involved in a new kind of solution: "bioartifical" organs are being grown from the patient’s own cells. There are a few people who have already received lab-grown bladders.
Bladder technique was developed by Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The healthy cells from the patient’s diseased bladder is taken and cause them to multiply profusely in petri dishes. The muscle cells go on the outside, urothelial cells on the inside by layering the cells one layer at a time. The bladder-to-be is then incubated at body temperature until the cells form functioning tissue. This process could take six to eight months.
Organs with lots of blood vessels, such as kidneys or livers, are harder to grow than hollow ones like bladders. Atala’s group works on 22 organs and tissues including ears, recently made a functioning piece of human liver. Others in the list includes: Columbia University – Jawbone, Yale University – Lung, University of Minnesota – Rat heart, University of Michigan – Artificial Kidney
There are possibilities that growing a copy of patient’s organ is not always possible – for instance, when the original is completely damaged by cancer. By using stem cell bank collected without harming human embryos from amniotic fluid in the womb, those cells are coaxed into becoming heart, liver and other organ cells.
A bank of 1,00,000 stem cell samples would have enough genetic variety to match nearly any patient. Surgeons can order organs grown as needed instead of waiting for the perfect donor. "There are few things as devastating for a surgeon as knowing you have to replace the tissue and you’re doing something that’s not ideal," says Atala, a urologic surgeon himself. "Wouldn’t it be great if they had their own organ?" Great for the patient especially, he means.
Via National Geographic and cc image credit