Growing and Re-engineering Organs

Growing and Re-engineering Organs

Mackenzie Thompson

by Mackenzie Thompson

Life Saver, AMC

posted on Apr 1, 2014, at 9:51 pm


IS A NEW FRANKENSTEIN AT BAY? Possibly. Doris Taylor, director of regenerative medicine research at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, considers this title a compliment. She collects organs from the recently-dead, re-engineers them and attempts to bring them back to life, hoping it might work again for the living. Taking this into consideration, Taylor admits the comparison to Frankenstein is rather suitable.

Taylor is one of many researchers working on reengineering organs so that transplants aren’t rejected by the recipient’s immune system. The strategy is simple: first, remove all cells from the dead organ— it does not even have to be from a human — then take the protein scaffold left behind and repopulate it with stem cells immunologically matched to the patient in need. Ta-da! The shortage of transplantable organs all over the world is solved.

Unfortunately, the process is riddled with many big challenges. Growing and transplanting solid organs such as kidneys or lungs is much more difficult than transplanting hollow, simple organs such as tracheas and bladders, in which researchers have had some success. Kidneys or lungs require getting dozens of cell types into exactly the right positions, and simultaneously growing complex networks of blood vessels to keep them alive. The new organs must be sterile, able to grow if the patient is young, and at least nominally able to repair themselves. Most importantly, they have to work, ideally, for a lifetime.The heart is the third most needed organ after the kidney and the liver, with a waiting list of about 3,500 in the United States alone, so a steady supply of bioengineered organs would be extremely beneficial.

“Yet the effort may be worthwhile even if it fails,” says Alejandro Soto-Gutiérrez, a researcher and surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. “Besides the dream of making organs for transplantation, there are a lot of things we can learn from these systems,” he says, “including a better basic understanding of cell organization in the heart and new ideas about how to fix one.”

To read the full article, go to Organs

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a lover of world travel, photography, design, style and Chinese cooking. She is passionate about working towards a purpose, recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Media and Marketing, and is currently residing in Manhattan.

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