First Lab-Grown Urethras Succeed

Surgeons produce viable urinary tubes from patients' own cells
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2011 5:22 AM CST
Using cells as medicines marks a major medical advance, experts say.   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – The field of regenerative medicine has chalked up a major success. Scientists have successfully grown urethras in the lab using patients' own cells, and the urinary tubes are still functioning normally six years after they were implanted, the BBC reports. The five young boys involved in the study had suffered injuries in accidents. Without the new treatment, they would have needed artificial grafts—a procedure that carries a 50% risk of failure—to avoid a lifetime of incontinence.

The American team of surgeons grew the urethras using a biodegradable "scaffold" and a tiny patch of tissue from each patient. The cells were encouraged to multiply over the scaffold, which eventually melted away after being implanted into the patient. The team, which has already successfully grown replacement bladders for injured children, is currently working to engineer more than 30 kinds of replacement tissue and organs. (Click to read about another lab-grown success.)

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