08 April 2006

Scientists Create First Artificially-Grown Organ

Growing an entire organ in a lab is a tall order, but these scientists did it:

Scientists say they have for the first time successfully rebuilt a complex organ from living, laboratory-cultivated tissue: new bladders engineered and implanted into seven patients. [more...]

Advances like this have enormous potential to cure disease and trauma. Growing in vitro livers and skin (for burn victims) are two uses that come to mind.

As with many medical advances, ethical issues are a concern. Will there be organ-for-order labs in the future? Will organs be available to anyone who can afford them (is it really a stretch to imagine hordes of middle-agers lining up for new, unwrinkled skin)? Will labs create "better than natural" organs ("Doctor, I want to be a pro athlete; how much is the Miguel Indurain cardiopulmonary system?")?

(Miguel Indurain, the Spanish cyclist, won the Tour de France 5 straight times, 1991-5. His performances were so strong that scientists actually tested him to find out how his body could perform that highly. As it turns out, he is a freak of nature: his heart and lungs are much larger than normal and can function at almost TWICE the normal level.)

1 comment:

Mark said...

One of the old ski champions from decades back had a mutation that gave him far more red blood cells than normal people. (I don't know if he had more veins or what--just read it in one of my kid's books on mutatation).

If they could graft on an extra pair of arms or another head on a body, how many people would sign up for it (besides me)?