As we age lots of our parts wear out and malfunction. What we need: replacement parts. So every time yet another research group reports success growing replacement organs it is time for cheer. Some lucky Japanese mice have already benefited. Keep an eye out for mice trying to sneak on Japan-bound airplanes.
Last spring, a research team at Japan's RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology created retina-like structures from cultured mouse embryonic stem cells. This week, the same group reports that it's achieved an even more complicated feat—synthesizing a stem-cell-derived pituitary gland.
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Tissue engineering to create the most complex glands and organs requires presenting a dynamically changing 3-dimensional environment to the cells that make up the organ being grown. The cells need to get shifting gradients of chemical signals that attempt to replicate the chemical environment of a developing fetus. A very difficult challenge both because the changing local fetal chemical environment has to be identified and also then replicated.
Growth of organ replacements is one of the most radical forms of rejuvenation. Rather than try to send in repair cells or gene therapies to do, at best, partial fixes the complete replacement of an organ effectively turns the biological clock on it back to complete youthfulness. I expect some reading this will live to see the day when whole organ replacement with vat-grown organs becomes routine - at least for those who can afford the treatment.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2011 November 13 09:31 PM Biotech Tissue Engineering|