Artificial organs

Published: Sunday 31 August 1997

researchers at New York's Harvard University have successfully grown replacement skin, bladders and other body tissue in a technique that could open new doors to transplant surgery and treatment of birth defects in humans. The scientists say they have developed a way to harvest cells from specific parts of an animal's body, grow the cells in culture, mould the resulting tissue into the desired shape, and implant the new part into the animal. While the technique is obviously experimental, it has been under development for seven years. It may be tried on humans within a few months. The researchers are seeking new ways to correct congenital birth defects and related problems in newborns and children. Present surgery techniques for a baby born with a bladder outside the body, use a piece of intestine to refashion a bladder which requires multiple surgeries. Says Anthony Atala, a paediatric surgeon in Istanbul, Turkey, "Even then, the child can have a lifetime of problems. But with this new technique you can reconstruct the bladder within 48 hours of birth and be done with it."

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