Made to order organs

Patients might one day be able to grow their own organs to replace diseased or damaged body parts – offering a potential solution to the global donor shortage crisis – one of the world’s leading transplant surgeons said on Friday. Professor Paolo Macchiarini, who pioneered the first transplant of a whole organ grown from a patient’s own cells four years ago, said the technology of regenerative medicine had advanced to the point where it was possible to contemplate transplants with no human donors, no problems of rejection and no need for lifelong treatment with immuno-suppressive drugs.

The new technique involves the creation of an artificial “scaffold” – which could in future be made from animal organs that have been stripped of their living cells – into which the patients own stem cells are inserted . The cells then grow to create a fully functioning organ ready for transplant.

“Such an approach has already been used successfully for the repair and reconstruction of complex tissues such as the trachea , oesophagus, and skeletal muscle in animal models and human beings,” Macchiarini said. “Guided by appropriate scientific and ethical oversight, (this) could serve as a platform for the engineering of whole organs and other tissues, and might become a viable and practical future therapeutic approach to meet the demand,” he added.

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