No more organ donar waiting lists - As the population ages and people are healthier (and auto accidents are down), there is a huge shortage of transplant organs. The only solution may be for us to learn how to grow our own. This would also solve the problem of organ rejection. It's about time!
Big changes are coming soon: In new experiments, a "soup" of cells from your diseased organ is "painted" on a form or scaffolding in the shape of the organ and placed into an incubator. A new organ grows in about six weeks. Bladders, ears, arteries, heart valves, fingers and toes are being grown this way.
In the Star Tribune, Karen Youso quotes researcher Anthony Atala as saying, "It used to be that the patient's pelvis was extensively X-rayed to get the right-sized bladder, but now [scientists are doing so many that] bladders come in three sizes: small, medium and large."
Meanwhile there's another reason to regrow body parts: Besides the nerve endings just beneath our skin, the human body may also have another sensory system which gives us the ability to touch and feel. These newly-discovered receptors may be located in our blood vessels and even in our sweat glands and most of us don't notice them. And another study shows that skin can hear!
We don't usually think of our skin as an organ, like our heart and liver are, but scientists think of it as our LARGEST organ. Researchers discovered the new sensory system when they studyied two patients who were born with a rare condition that give them almost no ability to feel pain. But the did suffer from excessive sweating. LiveScience.com quotes researcher David Bowsher as saying, "Curiously, our conventional tests with sensitive instruments revealed that all their skin sensation was severely impaired, including their response to different temperatures and mechanical contact. But, for all intents and purposes, they had adequate sensation for daily living and could tell what is warm and cold, what is touching them, and what is rough and smooth."
While these patients lacked the usual nerve endings in the skin, researchers found sensory nerve endings on the small blood vessels and sweat glands embedded in their skin. LiveScience.com quotes researcher Frank Rice as saying, "It's almost like hearing the subtle sound of a single instrument in the midst of a symphony. It is only when we shift focus away from the nerve endings associated with normal skin sensation that we can appreciate the sensation hidden in the background."
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Art credit: Dreamstime.com
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