Re-Growing Organs: the Future is Here
April 12, 2008
When Lee Spievack sliced off the tip of his finger, his brother Alan, a medical research scientist, sent him a special powder and told him to sprinkle it on the wound. In four weeks, his fingertip grew back completely.
That powder was a substance called extracellular matrix, a mix of protein and connective tissue surgeons use to repair tendons. It signals your body to start the process of tissue regrowth, and holds some of the secrets behind the emerging new science of regenerative medicine.
In one lab at Wake Forest University, researchers are already “growing body parts,” including muscle tissue and whole organs. And using this technology, a patient’s own cells have been used to grow a bladder that was then transplanted into the patient.
Many scientists believe that every tissue in your body has cells that are capable of regeneration, and the key is to find enough of those cells and direct them to grow. At least in theory, this process could be used to regrow limbs, organs, and other body parts.