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This article was written on 02 Apr 2012, and is filled under 2012, 3D Forms, News.

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Anthony Atala on Growing Organs

Our production schedule is well underway:

  • mouse cells are growing but need more!
  • scaffold in development
  • new source identified for pigs bladder tissue material

So this week I decided to revisit a TED (Technology, Enertainment and Design) talk presented by Anthony Atala M.D. in 2009, where he describes some processes and applications of his research in clinical engineering.

You can watch the talk below:

http://www.ted.com/talks/anthony_atala_growing_organs_engineering_tissue.html

Here are some interesting things I gleaned from the presentation:

The reason Atala puts forward for tissue engineering organs is identified very early on and is dead simple – there is a major shortage of donors and, as medicine keeps us alive for longer, organs fail more. Atala points out that, whilst stem cells can provide a great promise for the future, when it comes to getting stem cells into patients in a way which is predictable and consistent, there is a long way to go.

We are then shown an image of the Salamander – an animal which can regenerate its own limbs from the scar tissue – and the question is posed: Why can’t humans regenerate?

Atala explains that we can – but we can only regenerate over small distances – about 1cm. If we could bridge the gaps, then every organ in body has cell population ready to take over.

This cultivation of cells across gaps is where clinical engineering might provide some help.

Some great examples of cells being used to regenerate new material are shown in the talk, including at 6.27 where we see the exercizing of cells in a muscle bio-reactor and at 6.55 where a blood vessel is constructed and exercized using a tubular scaffold with muscle cells on outside and a lining of vascular blood vessel cells on the inside.

Anthony Atala was involved in the first ever artificial bladder transplant and at just before 9mins there is a handy diagram of their process for using cells to grow a new human bladder structure. After that we see the scaffold too.

When the possibilities of this research for the human species are considered, the presentation is jaw dropping at times but Anthony Atala makes some important points at the end when he reminds us that many of these techniques are still in development and before they can be put to clinical use we need to be sure that they do no harm. His test so far for whether to proceed is reassuringly human: “Are you ready to place this in your own child?”

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