Soon we may get new body parts from a lab: Could this be a solution for aging?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Nose grown in a lab: What other organs could researchers replace?
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Reconstructive surgery has come a long way since the days of the Phantom of the Opera. Now researchers can engineer tissue to make new noses and even new lady parts. The list also extends to tear ducts, windpipes, ears and a variety of other organs and even blood vessels. The vagina and nose are the latest human parts engineered in the lab that can be used to help humans.

If you're wondering what it means you're probably not alone. The implications of engineering tissue in a lab to grow and implant has a profound impact for advancing one of the newest fields in medical care known as regenerative medicine. Baby boomers should especially take note. Researchers also know how to grow teeth using urine stem cells.

Research published in the Lancet last week describes how scientists biopsied, seeded and grew vaginas in the lab and then matured them in an incubator.

The lady parts were made from patient's own tissue and fully functional after 8-years of follow-up. Cancer, congenital anomalies that prevent development of the uterus and vagina and injury are all examples of how the technique could help women.

Lab grown noses

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London researchers haven't put a lab grown nose on a patient yet. They're waiting for government clearance. The nose is ready and was grown using a nose mold, sugar and salt and stem cells from a man who lost his nose to cancer last year. The nose was implanted in the man's forearm that the the scientists who created the nose likens to an oven.

It might be possible to manufacture noses en masse, much like factory production work that might even include different shapes and sizes for individuality.

Alexander Seifalian at University College London, the scientist leading the effort. "It's like making a cake" he said. "We just use a different kind of oven.' Seifalian also has a patent for the scaffolding technique.

Seifalien was the creator of the first implanted trachea derived from polymers and nanoparticles.

Engineered tissue to grow body parts is less painful too. Scientists could make ears for children by taking stem cells from abdominal fat and adding them to the scaffolding structure. In the past, rib cartilage was used, which is not only invasive but painful.

Once researchers move past noses and ears - and vaginas - they can begin to focus on ways to make livers, hearts or other organs. It seems entirely possible that the future of medical care will include replacement with laboratory grown body parts. The newest success for growing a nose in the lab and vaginas is another advancement that can lead to solutions for common problems associated with aging such as heart disease, cancer that becomes higher risk with getting older, kidney failure and more.

Updated 4/14/2014

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