The First Engineered Organ is…a Urethra?

Senior Contributor
03.09.11 3 Comments

What does the young lady at right have to do with urethras? I have no idea, but it’s the first image that doesn’t prominently feature dongs when you Google “urethra”, so here she is. Apparently she likes to shoot urethras, so you’ve been warned, Pedobear.

Anyway, Anthony Atala, last seen killing your liver with this TED talk, has just announced that some urethras he grew and transplanted in 2005 can officially be declared successes.

Five Mexican boys had suffered urethra damage, which would normally inspire a joke around Tijuana but basically meant they had to go everywhere with a big bag of pee. What Atala and his team did was collect two types of cells from their bladder, muscle cells and lining cells, cultivated them, and then attached them to a cylindrical mesh structure. Then, when they had a solid urethra, patched them into the penis and got some urethra action going on.

There’s no problem with rejection because it’s the patient’s own cells. The really big news is that these pee chutes have grown with the young boys they were installed in, so the body is accepting them as their own tissue. It’s like, “hey, dude, ‘sup, you were gone a long time” to the new urethra.

This is pretty major news because it proves body parts grown in a lab can not only serve as transplant organs, but are actually better than transplant organs. Atala’s next target? Blood vessels, as well as 30 other structures. A team in Australia is working on an eye.

Sadly, no word on growing freakish monsters from beyond. But we’re sure once they’re done helping people, they’ll need something to do.

[ via the organ grinders at Discover ]

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