In this article, we detail 11 body parts that science can grow in a lab.
Recently we put out an article about a team growing a human hand on display, which has led us to wonder: What other body parts can be grown in a lab?
It’s high time we give that question the answer it deserves, therefore I have put together a list. They may be implantable or attachable, they may be experimental or downright crazy, but each of them represents the future of medical science.Cirrhosis? No problem! We're making artificial livers now.Click To Tweet
So, without any further ado, let’s start with a part of everyone’s humble beginnings, the fallopian tubes.
1. Fallopian Tubes
Fallopian tubes are what connects the ovaries to the uterus, making them crucial body parts for the beginning of any human life. On January 11, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin released a statement that described a set of fallopian tubes grown from stem cells.
The organoids they grew shared the same fatures and shapes as full-size fallopian tubes, which could have some major implications on fertility-related treatments in the future.
You might not think that a brain the size of a pencil eraser is a big deal, but what if researchers grew that brain themselves?
Well, over at Ohio State University, they did just that. What’s more, their minibrain was structurally and genetically similar to what you might find in a 5-week-old human fetus. It even has functioning neurons, axons, and dendrites!
We won’t have much use for a lab-grown brain if and until Dr. Sergio Canavero is successful in his potential bid to perform a head transplant. But don’t let that stop you, science. Heart transplants have been possible for years, and a vat-grown heart might seriously help pad our donor lists.
In March 2015, the journal Nature Communications released a study that detailed the creation of a miniheart. And like the minibrain, this tiny achievement is a huge leap ahead for medical science.
Researchers used stem cells to create the heart muscle and connecting tissues. They could even make it beat after they organized it into tiny chambers.
It may not be fit for transplant, but according to Kevin Healty, a co-author of the study, “This technology could help us quickly screen for drugs likely to generate cardiac birth defects, and guide decisions about which drugs are dangerous during pregnancy.”
Next on our list, we more mini body parts: the minikidney.
For this one, we look over to Austrailia, where a team of researchers has created this small organoid. The minikidney has the three distinct types of cells found in a human kidney, which enables it to form important structures known as nephrons.
Not the last mini-organ on our list, and most certainly not the least. Let’s take a look at the minilung.
According to Jason R. Spence of the University of Michigan Medical School, the organoids can mimic the responses of real tissues to drugs or disease. So, like the miniheart, they could be used for experimentation purposes.
Oh, and they’re pretty robust, too. The minilungs from that study clocked in a lifespan of 100 days in the lab.
Here’s the last mini-organ for now, I swear. I also hope you’re hungry because this last organoid is the ministomach.
The ministomach formed much like its counterparts; in a petri-dish and from stem cells, specifically. According to Jim Wells, co-author of the study that details this little wonder, the tiny stomachs they grew were about 3 millimeters in diameter. So, they aren’t going to help competitive eaters bring home any new championships anytime soon.
But mini-organs don’t seem to be for transplant, anyway. As with its counterparts, this organoid will be very helpful for scientists looking to document what happens to the stomach in controlled conditions.
Here’s an important one. What’s more, this one is actually fit to transplant.
The wonder that is the lab-grown vagina has been with us since before 2014 when the first successful transplant was reported. The beneficiaries were four girls and young women between age 13 and 18, and after eight years of checkups, the organs have functioned as normal.
Well, we can’t talk about one and leave the other out. Keep your giggles to yourselves, it’s time to have a serious, scientific discussion about the future of the vat-grown penis.
According to the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, it is possible to grow penile erectile tissue from rabbit cells. Yes, that’s right, rabbit cells, and I’ll thank you for leaving any puns to yourselves.
Seriously, though, while this research is still very experimental, it could do a lot to help soldiers who have suffered from groin injuries in combat. For the sake of those soldiers, let’s hope the team at Wake Forest can get the proper approval to go ahead with their research.
The vat-grown esophagus is a reality, folks, and so for our next item on the list, we go to Kuban State Medical University in Krasnodar, Russia.
There, an international team of researchers has constructed a working esophagus, and it only took them three weeks. Even better, they successfully implanted the organ in rats, proving the viability of an artificial gullet for all.
Of course, they tested the new organ by inflating and deflating it about 10,000 times before it ever got the the rats. The transplant meant replacing up to 20 percent of their organs, after all.
You’re going to want to hear this one. Believe it or not, scientists have created 3D printed human ears, and with living cells no less.
It all starts with a 3D printed frame. After creating the structure of the ear, scientists inject it with some living ear cells and collagen drawn from cows. Give it some time to gestate, and you get an ear.
So far, the organs have only been implanted in rats, and even then only for a few months, but progress is progress. I’m sure anyone who has lost an ear will appreciate a future where they can have it replaced.
Time for some artificial body parts that Moët Hennessey needs to invest in.
But everyone uses their liver to store vitamins and remove waste from their circulatory or digestive system.
And if you ask around, you’ll find that it is among the most requested transplants out there. If there were ever a candidate for a vat-grown organ, the liver would be it.
Would that it were that easy, though. Liver cells are extremely difficult to reproduce in a laboratory. To give an example, the last big break was in 2015, when German and Israeli scientists were able to cultivate hepatocytes.
Hepatocytes may be a main tissue of the liver, but it isn’t the whole liver, but have patience. According to Yaakov Nahmias, a lead researcher on the ongoing project, this is the “holy grail of liver research.”
So, if these scientists can find a way to re-create the liver, donor lists everywhere are going to see some much-needed relief.