Lab-grown penis ready for human testing

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In a bid to aid males with congenital penis abnormalities or those who have suffered traumatic injuries, scientists have developed penises in the lab.

Researchers based at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina, USA, developed the penises and are currently awaiting approval for human testing.

The research was funded by the US Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which has hopes of using the technology to help soldiers who have encountered battlefield injuries. The penises will be grown with the patient’s own cells, which will avoid the risk of rejection once the organ has been transplanted.

The director of the institute, Professor Anthony Atala, previously led a very successful rabbit penis engineering project. This particular indicated that once the tissue had been placed, the body recognises it as its own.

He said the rabbit studies were encouraging, but to obtain approval for humans, the team needs to gather all the quality assurance and safety data, to show that the materials to be used are not toxic. The manufacturing process has to be laid out in a step-by-step format.

Professor Atala, a paediatric urologist, said the inspiration for his project came from seeing babies who were born with deficient genitalia, and not being able to help them as there are no good available options. Penis transplants from human donors have been a controversial subject and the first successful transplant had to be removed two weeks after it was placed.

This procedure was done during 2005 in China, but the procedure had to be reversed as the then 44-year old patient and his wife suffered psychological problems due to the transplant.

Penis transplant surgery is rare, and although it is not more complex a procedure than any other transplant, doctors still question whether the transplanted organ will become fully functional.

The Wake Forest Institute is working on 30 different types of organs and tissues and it has been very successful at the development of lab grown organs. The first human bladder transplant was initiated by the institute during 1992, the first urethra transplant during 2004 and the first vagina transplant during 2005.

Image Credit: liverpoolhls

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