The hospital growing noses, ears and blood vessels
... British scientists make custom-made body parts using stem cells
In London’s Royal Free hospital, scientists are growing noses, ears and blood vessels in the laboratory in a bold attempt to make body parts using stem cells. It is among several labs around the world, including in the U.S., that are working on the futuristic idea of growing custom-made organs in the lab.
Only a handful of patients have received the British lab-made organs so far - including tear ducts, blood vessels and windpipes.
But researchers hope they will soon be able to transplant more types of body parts into patients, including what would be the world’s first nose made partly from stem cells.
‘It’s like making a cake,’ said Professor Alexander Seifalian at University College London, the scientist leading the effort. ‘We just use a different kind of oven.’
During a recent visit to his lab, Professor Seifalian showed off a sophisticated machine used to make moulds from a polymer material for various organs.
Last year, he and his team made a nose for a British man who lost his to cancer. Scientists added a salt and sugar solution to the mould of the nose to mimic the somewhat spongelike texture of the real thing.
Stem cells were taken from the patient’s fat and grown in the lab for two weeks before being used to cover the nose scaffold. Later, the nose was implanted into the man’s forearm so that skin would grow to cover it.
Professor Seifalian said he and his
Last year, he and his team made a nose for a British man who lost his to cancer. Scientists added a salt and sugar solution to the mould of the nose to mimic the somewhat sponge-like texture of the real thing.
team are waiting for approval from regulatory authorities to transfer the nose onto the patient’s face but couldn’t say when that might happen.
The potential applications of labmade organs appear so promising even the city of London is getting involved.
The polymer material used for his organ scaffolds has been patented and Professor Seifalian has also applied for patents for their blood vessels, tear ducts and windpipe.
He and his team are creating other organs including coronary arteries and ears. Later this year, a trial is scheduled to start in India and London to test lab-made ears for people born without them.
Some scientists predicted certain lab-made organs will soon cease to be experimental.
‘I’m convinced engineered organs are going to be on the market soon,’ said Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson, a professor of transplantation biology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. She has transferred labmade blood vessels into a handful of patients and plans to offer them more widely by 2016, pending regulatory approval.
Still, she acknowledged doctors will have to watch closely for any long-term side effects, including the possibility of a higher cancer risk.
The Royal Free hospital in north London is among several in the world, that are working on the futuristic idea of growing custom-made organs in the lab. Dr Michelle Griffin, who is working at the lab, said ears (top right) are harder to make than noses (left) because you have to get all the contours right and the skin is pulled tight so you see its entire structure. The bottom right shows a synthetic polymer nose, left, and ear are shown at the research facility.