Tissue Engineering Research
In 1987, Bob Langer and Joesph Vacanti pioneered a new process which allowed them to grow human tissue. This is a truly remarkable process that will someday allow us to replace tissue and organs for people who need them. Already they have tissue engineered skin, which aids burn victims and people with skin sores and it is expected that in the future they will be able to use lab-grown cartilage and bone to aid those suffering from arthritis. It is also expected that eventually they will be able to produce custom-made hearts, livers, corneas, kidneys, bladders, breasts, and bone marrow to aid those suffering from some of the most life threatening illnesses.
Once we get to the point of being able to produce these tissues and organs, it will undoubtedly change the world. I can only imagine how helpful it will be. It will save millions of lives and will be the solution to fighting many illnesses. One part of this article that I found to be remarkable was the way that they grow these tissues. Essentially in order to cultivate tissue in a lab you must mimic the environment in which these cells naturally grow. So scientists have to add all the right compounds together and then coax cells into growing and proliferating. Joesph Vacanti came up with the idea of scaffold, which is what they use to seed cells. They can mold the scaffold into any shape or any size. For example in order to engineer an ear, scientists can insert a scaffold of the right size and shape into an rat and then seed it with cells and after a little while you have an engineered ear growing on a rat. You can then proceed to remove the ear and use it on the human who needs that ear. Even though that sounds just a little wacky, it is amazing. Who would have ever thought you could end up growing human tissues on rats.
Another part of this article that amazed me was the bioreactor that Dr. Gail Naughton patented. This bioreactor is a device that simulates the conditions inside a human body, and is the ideal device to grow cells in. It has already produced stronger cartilage, heart values, and blood vessels than those produced in a petri dish. I feel that this device may be the breakthrough in technology that we need in order to fulfill being able to produce stronger tissues and organs to aid in fighting illnesses.
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