Saturday, November 8, 2008

Need A New Body Part? Just Grow It!

It appears that we're rapidly approaching medical procedures previously only encountered in science fiction. In April 2008 the US Defence Department announced the establishment of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) and the US government budgeted $250 million of private and public money over 5 years . The key component of this Army-led collaborative initiative was to "harness stem cell research and technology in finding innovative ways to use a patient's natural cellular structure to reconstruct new skin, muscles and tendons, and even ears, noses and fingers".

Well things have progressed quickly, and as reported in the Ottawa Citizen via Canwest News Services:
American military researchers say they have unlocked the secret to regrowing limbs and recreating organs in humans who have sustained major injuries.

Using "nanoscaffolding", the researchers have regrown a man's fingertip and the internal organs of several test subjects.

The technology works by placing a very fine apparatus called a scaffold, which is made of polymer fibres hundreds of times finer than a human hair, in place of a missing limb or damaged organ. The scaffold acts as a guide for cells to grab onto so they can begin to rebuild missing bones and tissue. The tissue grows through tiny holes in the scaffold, in the same way a vine snakes its way up a trellis.

After the body part has regenerated, the scaffold breaks down, is absorbed into the person's body and disappears entirely.

The military plans to announce the breakthrough at the 26th Army Science Conference in Florida next month.
Previous research in England (2006) had shown that nanoscaffolding could be used to grow skin for grafting in severe burn cases. And in Australia in February, a PhD student released research papers showing how nanoscaffolding can be used to repair nerve damage.

The next question is, how soon will these types of procedures be readily available to the general public?

It never ceases to amaze me, the scientific advances I've seen over my 65 years and I expect to see many more before I shuffle off this mortal coil. At least, that's how I see it from Between Keyboard and Chair.


Keli said...

Wow...imagine what this will do for transplant wait times and recipient acceptance!

parag said...

I remember watching a science program on BBC's Tomorrow's World about something similar. There the scientist used a computer to generate a 3D model of a man's ear.

Then a machine next to him molded a translucent scaffold that was an exact replica of the human ear (the device had a special mesh steeped in some viscous liquid and the ear-model "grew" out of that mesh),. Some stem cells were then placed on that model which was then kept in a nutrient mixture perhaps. And the rest you know....