Why get a kidney on the black market, when you can just make one in a jar?
Scientists in Europe have made groundbreaking strides in the manufacture of body parts, bioengineering noses and parts of human hearts. Their research ushers in a new era of building body parts for transplant into human bodies, instead of just waiting for a suitable donor. Patients wouldn't even be subject to the dangerous process of suppressing the bodies' rejection of a donor organ, because the transplants would be built with the patients' own cells.
The development of lab-built body parts is being spurred by a shortage of organ donors amid rising demand for transplants. Also, unlike patients getting transplants, recipients of lab-built organs won't have to take powerful anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. That's because the bioengineered organs are built with the patients' own cells.
Until the late 1980s, few scientists believed it would be possible to make human organs because it was a struggle to grow human cells in the laboratory. The task became easier once scientists figured out the chemicals-known as growth factors-that the body itself uses to promote cellular growth.
Scientists are still experimenting with the process of building a organ from scratch. The technology behind the nose for example, has mostly been cracked. Scientists have been able to grow the cartilage in jars. There is one problem, however:
The nose was missing a crucial piece: skin.
This posed a substantial hurdle. No one has made natural human skin from scratch. Dr. Seifalian's idea: to implant the nose under the skin of the patient's forehead in the hope that skin tissue there would automatically sheath the nose.
But the patient objected, and for good reason: The implanted nose would have to sit inside his forehead for weeks or even months. In the end, Dr. Seifalian chose a less obtrusive approach. The bioengineered nose was implanted under the patient's forearm.
Whew, glad that the patient objected to having that nose transplanted under their forehead.