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Boston 2002 Friday, 15 February, 2002, 06:10 GMT
Lab-built bladders on the way
AAAS Boston 2002, BBC
Ghosh, Heap


A leading surgeon in the US has told BBC News that he is ready to perform the world's first transplant of an artificially grown organ.


Tissue engineering... should help reduce the number of patients on a transplant list

Dr Anthony Atala
Dr Anthony Atala, of the Boston Children's Hospital, says he hopes to put a laboratory-engineered bladder into a patient once he has obtained the necessary regulatory approval.

He believes permission for the procedure, which has been pioneered in dogs, will come within the next few months.

Dr Attalla says that if he is successful with the bladder transplant, he will attempt to repair damaged hearts with new muscle and possibly even try to grow a kidney.

Polymer ball

"I think over time there will be no limit," Dr Atala said. "I think it is just a question of figuring out all the different tissue types and cell types and how they work best, but eventually I think that following the same strategies just about every organ in the body will be repairable at the very least."

It was exactly two years ago that a team from the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering at the Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston announced that it had successfully implanted six beagle dogs with lab-grown bladders.

Tissue samples were taken from the animals' original bladders and these were used to cultivate the muscle cells and special bladder skin cells, called urothelial cells, needed to construct the artificial organs.

The multiplying cells were shaped into beagle bladders by bedding them down over polymer balls. Transplanted into the dogs, these lab-grown organs allowed the animals to urinate normally.

Important ally

Dr Atala believes his technique is sufficiently well developed that it could be used to treat a young child.

A lab-grown bladder could be the answer for a patient whose own organ has been destroyed by cancer or damaged by an infection or injury.

Dr Atala is seeking approval for human trials from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Although tissue engineering has huge potential, Dr Atala believes there will always be a need for donor organs. "I think tissue engineering is just another solution but it should help reduce the number of patients on a transplant list."

And, he believes, tissue engineering will prove to be a useful ally to the emerging field of stem cell medicine, in which "young" cells are injected into ailing tissue to regenerate it.

"For example, with a patient who has a failing heart, where obviously it would be very hard to get a biopsy because they would not tolerate the procedure; then I think stem cells would be the ideal answer."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
"The principal is fairly simple"
The BBC's Tom Heap
The operations will follow regulatory approval
See also:

02 Feb 99 | Science/Nature
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