In the United States alone, there are over one hundred thousand people on the waiting list to get an organ transplant in America. Every day, almost 20 people die due to the short supply of healthy organs. Complicating this process is the fact that the donor and the patient have to have a match in order for the transplant to succeed. Without a match, the recipient's immune system can reject the any transplants.
A better solution has been created and it's called "bio-artificial" organs. These organs grow from the cells of the patient which eliminates the worry of finding an exact match. 30 people have already received a bladder developed in the lab and there are even more bio-engineered organs to come.
The bladder generation method was created by Anthony Atala of Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, located in North Carolina. Researches took the healthy, strong cells out of a patient's diseased organ and placed them in glass petri dishes to allow multiplication. Afterwards, researchers apply the cells to a balloon shaped frame-work made partially from collagen, which is the protein present in cartilage. On the exterior go the muscle cells while on the interior go the urothelial cells. Atala says, “It’s like baking a cake with layers, you are layering the patient's cells on the frame-work one layer at a time.” The growing bladder is placed into incubation at normal body temperature until the patient's organ cells develop functioning tissue. This process takes about 6 to 8 weeks.
Some organs such as kidneys and livers are more difficult to grow than hollow ones like the bladder previously mentioned. Atala's group is working on 22 organs including ears. This last year they made a working human liver organ. They utilize a tool like to an ink-jet printer that "prints" various cell types one layer over another.
At Columbia University, a jawbone was developed. At Yale University, a lung was developed. Doris Taylor, at the University of Minnesota, has created a functioning beating heart of a rat. She grew cells from one rat on a scaffold she created from the heart of a different rat by washing off its own cells. Meanwhile, at the University of Michigan, H. David Humes has produced an artificial kidney starting from cells spread onto a synthetic frame-work of the organ. They have experimented with it on sheep where it's currently wearable but not implantable. It differs from a dialysis machine as it works more than filtering toxins from blood. It even produces hormones and performs various other key kidney functions.
There is another option for kidney dialysis which is called an implantable bio artificial kidney. The Cleveland Clinic is working on an alternative dialysis with a $3.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. A bio artificial kidney that is implantable would increase an ESRD patient's quality of life. This device can potentially revolutionize care for patients that suffer from kidney failure. The Cleveland Clinic and other medical centers have underwent complete FDA Phase I & II clinical trials for this bio artificial kidney. There's also been research conducted to reduce the size of the bio artificial kidney used in trials.
Producing a duplicate of a patient's organ is not possible in all cases, for example when the organ is too severely damaged from cancer. In this case, a stem cell bank can be one solution. Anthony Atala’s team of Wake Forest Institute has revealed that stem cells can be harvested without damaging human embryos from amniotic fluid inside the womb. Researchers have been able to coax these cells into becoming liver, heart, and many more organ cell types. A stem cell bank of 100,000 cell samples would have more genetic variety to connect with any patient. American surgeons could order organs that are already developed, as opposed to waiting for cadavers which may not lead to the right match. “There are not many things as tragic for a surgeon as realizing you have to replace a patient's tissue, when there are alternatives more ideal”, says Atala, who is aurologic surgeon.
Harvard Bioscience Inc. - the company that makes the LB2 Lung Regeneration Bioreactor was recently featured on PBS’s Nova Science Now Program. Harvard Bioscience is mainly a manufacturer and marketer of special equipment for biotechnical applications. They created bioreactors that allow transplant of hollow organs into people. The bioreactor was showcased on National Geographic and on the marketing website TheStreet.com.
Harvard reports state that the process for successful cell regeneration are a sustainable scaffold of cells, which function normally with the absence of antigenicity. It has been successful as it shows in their 2009 reports that a bio artificial trachea was implanted to repair the air way of a thirty year old patient who was suffering from broncomalacia and loss of optimal air way function. Harvard succeeded in developing the prime conditions for creating a replacement airway for a patient using their own body cells.
Furthermore, Bio artificial Organs are the future of human longevity and laboratories have been conducting clinical trial with excellent success. Once the FDA approves transplant of bio artificial organs, then the possibility for commercial wide distribution can begin.