Thursday, March 1, 2007
Medical Reports: Transforming Transplants
Every 90 minutes in this country someone waiting for an organ transplant dies. There aren't enough organ donors, but scientists are on the verge of building organs from live human cells, so they won't need donors any more. 7's Richard Lemus shows us how they're Transforming Transplants.
WSVN -- Kaitlyne McNamara is like most teenagers.
Kaitlyne McNamara: "I really love to talk on the phone."
But her talk the last few years has been about her health.
She has Spina Bifida, a spine-damaging condition that caused her bladder to stop functioning.
Kaitlyne McNamara: "It made me self-conscious about myself."
She was facing a lifetime of dialysis.
But instead, she became one of just seven people in the world to receive this -- a custom made bladder built by human hands.
Dr. Mark Van Dyke: "We've heard phrases like science-fiction, and this stuff is out of this world."
It works like this.
Researchers take healthy cells from the patient's own bladder.
Those cells are then grown in the lab and put into a bladder-shaped scaffold, where they multiply and spread.
It eventually looks and works like a real bladder.
Dr. Mark Van Dyke: "We can grow those cells outside the body and create a new organ, put it back into the patient, and it's genetically matched to that patient, so there is no rejections."
And it's working.
Kaitlyne and the other patients in the study all have healthy bladders now.
For the rebuilt organs to replace traditional organ donations scientists have to make them faster.
Physicist Gabor Forgacs is working on a solution. He's created a 3-D printer that could actually print organs.
Dr. Gabor Forgacs: "We need the ink; we call it the bio-ink. We need the paper; we call it the bio-paper. We need the printer, the bio-printer."
The printer drops clumps of live cells onto the bio-paper.
Those drops fuse together and self-assemble into the desired shape.
His research has already created a chicken heart.
Dr. Gabor Forgacs: "We print the block of tissue and eventually would like that tissue to synchronously beat just as a heart would, and it does."
Bioprinting is still in its early stages.
But researchers are confident more patients will see success, like Kaitlyne.
Kaitlyne McNamara: "I'm really thankful for them finding something to help me."
The researchers have already started human trials on urethras that were grown in the lab.
As for the printer, that's still years away from human trials, but scientists believe organ-printing could very well become mainstream in our lifetime.
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