As I write this, there are over 100,000 people who are waiting for their chance to receive a life-saving transplant. Perhaps one day it will be routine for organs to be synthetically created helping reduce this staggering statistic. Researchers and Scientists have had a couple of critical breakthroughs in the past years to help increase the supply of organs and reduce the number of humans waiting for a transplant.
Laboratory Grown Organs
At the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, they are implanting laboratory-grown bladders in patients who were born with defective bladders. We are getting closer to producing laboratory grown or synthetic organs for transplantation. Their influx of supply will help bring an end to the current process and help limit the number of grieving patients and their families.
Researchers in Australia are studying the Zebrafish due to its biological similarities to humans. Like us, Zebrafish have many of the same organs including a Kidney and a heart. Also, 70% of human genes are found in Zebrafish. These fish have revealed some of the secrets regarding Stem Cells and a protein called Meox1. Evidence of clonal drift was found inside the Zebrafish. This means the cells aren’t dividing and growing randomly but pushing small numbers of cloned stem cells to help grow muscles. By being able to understand this controlled growth, Scientists can develop methods in using these cells to help grow human organs. Additionally, only a few specific cells are used to grow organs, and the Meox1 protein is assisting distinguish those.
Generating Kidney Tissues
Researchers from the University of Manchester successfully grew functioning human kidney tissue in a lab. The kidney tissue, produced from human Stem Cells, was implanted under the skin of mice and went on to develop working kidney cells. The cells were then implanted into mice who were engineered to lack a functioning immune system. Twelve weeks later, the tissue successfully developed; thus, revealing a network of blood vessels, and the kidney structures were shown to be producing a urine-like substance called glomerular filtrate.
“We have proved beyond any doubt these structures function as kidney cells by filtering blood and producing urine – though we can’t yet say what percentage of the function exists… What is particularly exciting is that the structures are made of human cells which develop an excellent capillary blood supply, becoming linked to the vasculature of the mouse.”
Sue Kimber, one of the lead researchers from the University of Manchester
By being able to grow or synthetically create organs, we can reduce the number of people who are waiting for their chance to receive a life-saving transplant. Despite these significant milestones documented in all three breakthroughs, there is still an enormous amount of work to be done before we can regrow functioning human kidneys for use in transplants. I encourage everyone to become an organ donor and help save a life.