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In The News
   
 
 

 

In The News
 

 

March 22 - Science Fiction Comes Alive as Researchers Grow Organs in Lab

Article: Cloning And Genetic Engineering

Reaching into a stainless steel tray, Francisco Fernandez-Aviles lifted up a gray, rubbery mass the size of a fat fist. It was a human cadaver heart that had been bathed in industrial detergents until its original cells had been washed away and all that was left was what scientists call the scaffold. Next, said Dr. Aviles, "We need to make the heart come alive."

Inside a warren of rooms buried in the basement of Gregorio Marañón hospital here, Dr. Aviles and his team are at the sharpest edge of the bioengineering revolution that has turned the science-fiction dream of building replacement parts for the human body into a reality.

Now, with the quest to build a heart, researchers are tackling the most complex organ yet. The payoff could be huge, both medically and financially, because so many people around the world are afflicted with heart disease. Researchers see a multi-billion-dollar market developing for heart parts that could repair diseased hearts and clogged arteries.

The development of lab-built body parts is being spurred by a shortage of organ donors amid rising demand for transplants. Also, unlike patients getting transplants, recipients of lab-built organs won't have to take powerful anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. That's because the bioengineered organs are built with the patients' own cells.

"You can see the acceleration in the field," Dr. Atala said. Dr. Seifalian and 30 scientists now seek to build a larynx, ears, noses, urethras and bile ducts.

"We're actually in the process of making a synthetic face," he said. From a cosmetic point of view, "if you can make the ear and the nose, there's not much left."

"We opened the door and showed it was possible," she said. "This is no longer science-fiction. It's becoming science."

 
 

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