A research team led by Doctor Alexander Seifalian at University College London is currently creating custom lab-grown organs and body parts for patients utilizing autologous [the patient’s own] stem cells. The scientists have engineered a polymer material that they mold into the shape of an organ in need, infuse with the patient’s stem cells, and then transplant back onto the patient’s body.
Scientists from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary have found a signaling pathway that, when blocked, prevents the onset of noise-induced hearing loss and deafness. In an animal model, the inhibition of the pathway allowed stem cells in the inner ear to differentiate and regenerate sound-sensing hair cells, which are integral to the ability to hear.
Researchers all around the world are working towards utilizing stem cells to grow replacement organs. While once thought to be a futuristic concept, it is now very real. Doctors and researchers have successfully transplanted lab grown bladders, blood vessels, tear ducts, arteries and windpipes. Now, research teams around the world are growing urethras, bile ducts, larynxes, bones, livers, kidneys, and even hearts.
Advances in regenerative medicine, spearheaded by AFIRM [Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine], are restoring function to wounded soldiers. A consortium of research centers is developing techniques to grow body parts, such as ears, bones, skin and genitals. AFIRM is directing 300 million dollars to develop a broad array of regenerative treatments that will impact treatment options for both wounded soldiers and the general population. Many of the treatments are now entering the clinical [human] testing phase with the prospect of growing organs and tissue ‘on demand’ utilizing the patient’s own stem cells on the horizon.