Why wait in line for an organ transplant when you can grow your own? Or if you don't like your nose, forget plastic surgery--grow a new one. These amazing abilities--once part of science fiction--are now on the way.
A laboratory made a bladder in 1996, and there have been five windpipe replacements so far. One researcher transplanted lab-grown tear ducts and an artery into some of his patients. He has created an artificial nose that he plans to transplant onto a man who lost his own nose due to skin cancer.
Millions of people around the world have chronic heart disease. Instead of the current bypass operation, where new arteries are removed from the leg and transplanted into the heart, these structures could be grown. And unlike patients getting transplants, recipients of lab-built organs won't have to take powerful anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives, because the bioengineered organs are built using the patients' own cells.
In the March 23-24 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Gautam Naik quotes researcher Doris Taylor as saying, "We opened the door and showed it was possible. This is no longer science-fiction. It's becoming science."
But it's not as simple as it sounds: For instance, the nose implant patient refused a new nose at first, because the implanted nose would have had to sit inside his forehead for weeks or even months, in order to grow the necessary blood vessels. His doctor compromised, and the bioengineered nose was implanted under the patient's forearm.
Here's a question you may never have though of before: Why are some of our internal organs on one side rather than the other? Does anyone ever get an organ on the "wrong" side?
In the February 25th edition of the New York Times, Claiborne Ray quotes organ transplant specialist Jean C. Emond as saying that organ placement "is the result of millions of years of evolution. The left-right asymmetry for certain organs is shared with all vertebrates. "During very early development, the organs originate from the single row of cells in the fetus and through an elaborate choreography that is programmed in the DNA, grow and rotate and eventually reach the ideal position at birth."
A complete reversal of the internal organs can occur in some mirror-image twins.
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