New Medical Breakthrough: Body part created

Need a body part?

Just have scientists make you one.

It may sound too good to be true, but researchers are doing just that.

We'll show you the lab that's changing lives right now and could change many more in the future.

This happens in a lab where science fiction becomes reality. The world's first engineered urethra is created at the Wake Forest Institute for regenerative medicine.

First, researchers take a very small piece of tissue from a patient's bladder. Then, they grow the cells outside the body and put the tailor-made urethra right back in the patient. (:15)

"It’s very much like baking a layer cake if you will, we do this one layer at a time,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Doctors were able to give five boys in Mexico who suffered pelvic injuries new urethras.

Researchers are using this printer to create lab-grown ears. So far, it's worked in animals.

"We can make it match very closely to a native ear,” said Dr. John Jackson, associated professor at Wake Forest.

A CT scan of the existing ear generates a pattern that scientists replicate. A 3-d image is made then layer by layer the machine prints the ear.

In another project, researchers are engineering muscle. First they take muscle biopsies and isolate cells that have the potential to multiply. They then seed them onto a scaffold, teaching the cells to become muscle.

"Think of as exercise, as if you were exercising at a gym or something like that,” said Dr. George Christ, professor of Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest.

The next step is to implant the muscle in the body where it will regenerate and repair an injury.

The new muscle could help many ailments including neuropathy, cleft palate, and facial paralysis.

"It's life-changing even in the simplest cases,” said Christ.

Three new breakthroughs grown in the lab, but made for our bodies.


REPORT: MB #3494

BACKGROUND: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, regenerative medicine is the "next evolution of medical treatments." Regenerative medicine offers the potential for the body to heal itself. Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., were the first in the world to engineer lab-grown organs that were successfully implanted into humans. Now, the team of researchers is working to engineer more than 30 different replacement tissues and organs to develop cell therapies with the goal of curing a variety of diseases. (SOURCE: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

LAB-GROWN URETHRAS: Researchers from Wake Forest were the first in the world to use patients' own cells to build tailor-made urine tubes in the lab and successfully replace damaged tissue in five boys in Mexico. The boys were unable to urinate due to a pelvic injury. After receiving the lab-grown urethras, all the boys continue to do well with normal or near-normal urinary flow. The urethras were grown on biodegradable mesh scaffolds made of a polyester compound. The scaffolds were seeded with cells taken from the patients' own bladders and incubated in the lab for four to seven weeks. They were then used to repair damaged segments of the boys' urethras. "For us, really, our goal here at the Institute is really to try to complete technologies that we can get to patients to make their lives better, so anytime that we're able to do that, improve the quality of patients' lives, we feel like that's part of our mission," Anthony Atala, M.D., Director, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, told Ivanhoe.
(SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with Dr. Atala and WebMD article)

GROWING EARS: Scientists are working on "printing" ears in the lab. "What we can do is we can take any three dimensional image of an ear, and it can be put into the computer, and that will generate an image within the printer that then prints that specific three dimensional structure," John Jackson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, told Ivanhoe. Right now, implants that are commercially-available are hard and rigid. They also cause problems with erosion through the skin. The new, tailor-made ears are flexible and patient-specific. In animal studies, the lab-grown ears have been shown to cause less erosion. The next step is to print the ears for use in humans. "To be able to take a structure, generate a 3D implant and have that as a potential treatment for a patient who has lost an ear, that's very exciting," Dr. Jackson told Ivanhoe.
(SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with Dr. Jackson)

ENGINEERING MUSCLE: Researchers are also looking to see if they can engineer tissue that resembles muscle to repair small injuries in the body. They take biopsies from skeletal muscles and culture out the stem cells from the muscle. They then seed the cells onto a scaffold and condition the scaffold and a bioreactor to exercise muscle in-vitro. Then, they use that construct as an implant to accelerate regeneration and repair of injured muscle in the body. Scientists have been studying the engineered muscle in animals, and the next step is to try it in humans. "For me, personally, it's fantastic because you don't often get an opportunity to do research that's not only compelling but that can result in therapies that can help people on a daily basis and really improve their quality of life," George Christ, Ph.D., Professor of Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, told Ivanhoe.
(SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with Dr. Christ)


Karen Richardson
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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