"Science fiction comes alive as researchers grow organs in lab" -- Wall Street Journal and A Remedy for Death

"Science fiction" and "Wall Street Journal" are terms not often used in the same sentence, but just maybe science fiction is transforming into mainstream science.

The WSJ article this week, "Science fiction comes alive as researchers grow organs in lab" by Gautam Naik, is accompanied by a video, narrated by Mr. Naik, and a clear graphic, "Growing a new heart."

The first section focuses on work done in Madrid by Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Avila: a  human heart, taken from a cadaver has been "cleaned" to clear all the original cells so all that was left was the "scaffold". This builds on the work of American Dr. Doris Taylor at the Texas Heart Institute, in Houston,  who is working with the Spanish team. (For more on her work,  see my post "Reversing the aging process using pig hearts")

The "scaffold," once cleaned of the donor's cells, is seeded with stem cells from a human donor, who will--when the work is final -- be the recipient. (Though there's much more to it than that, needless to say.)  But it's one more instance of how science fiction in these areas is moving into fact.

At University College, London (and the allied Royal Free Hospital),  the WSJ's Mr.Naik describes how the team is working on a variety of kinds of "lab grown" organs to implant in humans, including a new nose for a man who lost his to cancer, new coronary arteries, windpipes, and others.  Dr. Alex Seifalian heads a team of 30 researchers there.

If you're interested in the how-to, they first developed the scaffold -- in this case by molding it with the help of an artist -- then poured the cartilage replacement material into a mold, then "added salt and sugar" to replicate the spongy feel of a normal nose.  (Hmm!)

Of course, using an artist's created mold is not the only way of shaping a lab-created organ. Last fall, another article in the Wall Street Journal (this by Robert Lee Hotz), reported on a method I've heard more and more about since. That article: "Need a new body part? No problem. Just use a bio-printer to produce it."

For still more, see the three-part series the New York Times ran, also last fall:  “Body Builders” by Henry Fountain., consisting of the three articles and the related graphics. 

This earlier blog post of mine will take you to the series:  "Bio-engineering human tissue on an animal scaffold"