Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have taken the first step toward developing artificial, lab-grown limbs, building a rat forelimb with functioning vascular and muscular tissue.
This experimental approach could be applied to the limbs of primates – creating replacement limbs suitable for transplantation, a challenge because of the composite nature of limbs.
“Limbs contain muscles, bone, cartilage, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and nerves – each of which has to be rebuilt and requires a specific supporting structure called the matrix. We have shown that we can maintain the matrix of all of these tissues in their natural relationships to each other, that we can culture the entire construct over prolonged periods of time, and that we can repopulate the vascular system and musculature,” Dr. Harald Ott, of the MGH Department of Surgery and the Center for Regenerative Medicine, said in a news release Tuesday. …
"In clinical limb transplantation, nerves do grow back into the graft, enabling both motion and sensation, and we have learned that this process is largely guided by the nerve matrix within the graft. We hope in future work to show that the same will apply to bioartificial grafts," said Ott. Additional next steps will be replicating our success in muscle regeneration with human cells and expanding that to other tissue types, such as bone, cartilage and connective tissue."
Scientists at MGH say the next steps will be to replicate the muscle regeneration process with human cells and expand that to other tissue types.
Life is a self organizing machine. With the right conditions and raw materials any body part will create itself. It is very exciting that we are starting to figure out how to control this. The race is on. It is possible that this is a path to amazing life extension. If your parts wear out, you just replace them. I think it is just a question of when. As long as we avoid a major disaster that sets civilization back hundreds of years, meaningful replacement of human organs from stem cells could start in our lifetime.