February 26, 2006
Human Prostate Tissue Grown From Embryonic Stem Cells

A Monash University research team in Melbourne Australia grew human prostate tissue from human embryonic stem cells.

In a major step towards understanding prostate disease, Melbourne scientists have grown a human prostate from embryonic stem cells.

A study published in the March edition of Nature Methods describes how human embryonic stem cells were developed into human prostate tissue equivalent to that found in a young man, in just 12 weeks.

Hey, I want to grow a new prostate and replace mine before mine gets old enough to cause really serious problems. The idea of getting youthful replacement parts becomes more appealing with every passing year.

We should be able to get replacement parts that last longer than the originals. Not every man gets BPH or prostate cancer. Once DNA sequencing is cheap and large numbers of people get their medical histories and DNA sequences compared scientists will identify large numbers of genetic variations that contribute to disease risk. My guess is DNA sequencing will get cheap before replacement organs become feasible. So we'll know what to change. One's own DNA might still be used for making replacement parts (reduces immuno-rejection problems). But gene therapy to patch our DNA (rather like software patches) with the best sequences for reducing specific disease risk will fix it to make it last longer.

For making organs last longer there's a step beyond using best existing genetic variations: Develop genetic sequences that are better than any that have evolved naturally. For example, move all the genes now found in the mitochondria (which have about 15,000 genetic letters of code) into the nucleus where they will be better protected from free radical damage.

The researchers expect a more immediate benefit from their work in the form of prostate cells that can be studied for showing how prostates deteriorate and become diseased.

The study was co-authored by Dr Renea Taylor from Monash University's Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, PhD researcher Ms Prue Cowin from the Monash Institute of Medical Research and other Australian and US researchers.

Dr Taylor said the discovery would allow scientists to monitor the progression of the prostate from a normal to a diseased state.

"We need to study healthy prostate tissue from 15-25 year old men to track this process," she said. "Understandably, there is a lack of access to samples from men in this age group, so to have found a way we can have an ongoing supply of prostate tissue is a significant milestone.

"As nearly every man will experience a problem with their prostate, we're very excited about the impact our research will have."

Although prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, the impact of benign prostate disease (BPH) is equally significant - up to 90 percent of men will have BPH by the time they're 80. BPH is not usually life-threatening, but has a dramatic impact on quality of life.

My guess is that a lot of men with ambivalent feelings about embryonic stem cells who have benign prostate hyperplasia (i.e. difficulty urinating - which also increases the odds of kidney failure btw) are going to resolve those ambivalent feelings in favor of embryonic stem cells if they can get offered replacement prostates that solve their problem.

The cells were planted into mice after being treated in ways that instructed the cells to become prostate tissue.

"We grew the prostate tissue by 'telling' the embryonic stem cells how to become a human prostate gland. We then implanted the cells into mice, where they developed into a human prostate, secreting hormones and PSA; the substance in the blood used to diagnose prostate disease,'' Ms Cowin said.

We really need the ability to grow whole replacement organs. These ladies have taken a big step in that direction. But additional problems must also be solved to grow organs in the right three dimensional shape and ideally to do that in a human body. Mice are obviously too small to grow replacement organs for humans and present problems with disease transfer as well.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 February 26 06:42 PM  Biotech Organ Replacement

Jake said at February 27, 2006 11:30 AM:

Unless you are going to have children, you do not need a prostate. It's only function is to create semen to transport sperm in the vagina. Otherwise It is totally useless and a curse.

The breakthrough would be if they could induce cancer in these cells so they would have a testbed for vaccines.

Walter T. said at May 22, 2007 7:05 AM:

I am a 54 year old man who had a radical protatectomy done 1 1/2 years ago. The surgen did not remove all of the prostate tissue, and as a result, I still register a PSA level of .3 to .4. Also a seminl vessel, ejaculatory duct, and one set of nerves were also left intact. I produce small amounts of fluid during ejaculation. I can say without a prostate, my life is not the same, especially since I can perform certain functions, but with out the intensity. Would stem cell research be able to regrow a protate that would function as before using exisiting tissue?

Randall Parker said at May 22, 2007 10:32 PM:

Walter T.,

Yes, research on stem cells and on developmental biology will eventually point the way to how to grow replacement organs including prostates. Hard to say when this will happen. But I expect growth of replacement organs within 20 years and quite possibly much sooner.

Tell your elected representatives that you want research on tissue engineering and stem cell therapy ramped up.

cancer_man said at May 13, 2009 4:02 PM:

Have you seen the stat on the percentage of men who get BPC by 75? I wonder if over half occur after that age.

Randall Parker said at May 13, 2009 7:05 PM:


I know that BPH is Benign Prostate Hypertrophy. But I can't figure out what you mean by BPC. Can you explain? Or maybe you mispelled?

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