Scientists Close In on Lab-Grown Human Penis

They've had success with rabbits, are approaching first clinical trials
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2014 8:59 AM CDT
Scientists Close In on Lab-Grown Human Penis
Dr. Anthony Atala holds the "scaffolding" for a human kidney created by a 3-D printer in a laboratory at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, on May 8, 2013.   (AP Photo/Allen Breed)

If you think a bio-penis is only for guys who've run into angry, knife-wielding partners, think again. Genetic defects, penile cancer surgery, trauma, and even erectile dysfunction are all reasons a sizable number of men might opt for a bioengineered penis. A team of researchers has done it successfully with lab rabbits, reports the Wake Forest School of Medicine, and they've spent the past six years scaling up so that a human patient might soon have a penis made from his own cells biopsied from salvageable tissue and then grown in culture and ultimately transplanted, reports the Guardian. If it sounds easy, well, it's not: The penis is a pretty intricate organ.

At the bottom of the order of architectural complexity are flat structures (think skin); next up, cylindrical structures (e.g., vagina); then hollow, non-tubular ones (bladder); and finally solid, dense organs, of which the penis is wholeheartedly both. Then add the fact that it includes spongy erectile tissue, and that erections involve the dilating of blood vessels that fill tissue and the stiffening and lengthening of the entire organ. But in spite of the seemingly insurmountable hurdles, the researchers, who hope to be within five years of the first clinical trials, say their bioengineered penis is far superior to the two main options today: a penis constructed from muscle in one's thigh or forearm using either malleable rods where the penis is always semi-erect or inflatable rods with a pump in the scrotum. (Meanwhile, the rapper who cut off his own penis in April says the little that remains still gets hard.)

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