Scientists in a London laboratory have developed a breakthrough technique for growing replacement organs, promising hope for people in desperate need of an organ transplant.
Professor Alex Seifalian at the lab uses a special plastic with the potential to change the transplant landscape, CBS News reported.
There has only been one actual transplant so far of what’s called a “wholly tissue-engineered synthetic windpipe.”
The recipient, a man from Eritrea who had previously been diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer, is now recovering well.
The technique of growing organs involves making a glass mock-up of the diseased body part and then coating it in a new type of polymer — a rubbery type substance developed in the London lab.
Seifalian described it as a “special kind of plastic.” The plastic has microscopic pores, onto which stem cells taken from the patient can attach and grow.
The plastic acts as a scaffolding of sorts around which the patient’s own cells can then regrow and remodel themselves into a new body part.
Because the cells are the patient”s own, they are not rejected by the body’s immune system, which is the usual problem with transplants.
The trachea may be just the beginning, “the heart is possible,” said Seifalian, adding that more complex organs like lungs or brains will be much more challenging.
While the technique is not yet approved in the United States, Dr. Seifalian’s lab is already getting body part orders from other countries around the world.