Researchers May Have Invented Organs the Body Won't Reject

New breakthrough uses a patient's own stomach cells, cutting the risk of an immune response to implanted organs.


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Imagine a world where every patient who needed a heart transplant or a liver, or even a new spinal disc, could get one implanted and never have to worry about their body rejecting it. There is a recent medical breakthrough that could make this a reality.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel announced that they have successfully created the first fully personalized tissue implant, made from a patient's own cells, that will not be rejected. 

The study that appeared in Advanced Materials showed that it is possible to make any tissue implant from one small fatty tissue biopsy. In a complicated procedure, the cells can be engineered to become stem cells which can produce any cell or tissue the body needs.

Lead researcher, Prof. Tal Dvir of Tel Aviv University’s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Sagol Center for Regenerative Biotechnology, said that the research indicated that tissue that is made from the patient’s own cells can be implanted into a diseased or damaged organ and the organ can regenerate itself; a heart after a heart attack, a brain after trauma or from Parkinson's Disease, and even a damaged spinal cord.

Dvir stressed that the benefits of using this type of tissue are that the implant will not trigger an immune response (that causes organ rejection) and will allow the organ to regenerate.

While organ regeneration sounds like science fiction, it is currently being practiced with a  different process. Now, cells are isolated from the patient but cultured in biomaterials to grow into usable tissue. The problem is that after transplantation, these implants can be rejected so the patient must take immune-suppressors for the rest of his or her life and these drugs can damage the patient's health, according to Israel21.

The research team is currently working on regenerating an injured spinal cord and a damaged heart. They are also investigating how to use implants to treat Parkinson's disease.

“In addition, we can engineer adipogenic (fatty tissue) implants for reconstructive surgeries or cosmetics. These implants will not be rejected by the body,” Dvir said in the published study. The researchers are also planning on regenerating other organs.

There is similar research being conducted in other places. A multidisciplinary research team from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and School of Veterinary Medicine is working on disc degeneration in the spinal cord.

Currently, when spinal discs degenerate, the treatment can include removal, spinal fusion surgery, or replacing damaged discs with artificial ones. None of these can restore full function. The research team is working to solve this by developing bioengineered discs formed from the patient's own cells.

"This is a major step: to grow such a large disc in the lab, to get it into the disc space, and then to have it to start integrating with the surrounding native tissue. That's very promising," said Professor Robert L. Mauck, the co-senior author of the current study.

At Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston Salem, North Carolina, director Anthony Atalia has been working with laboratory-grown bladders. During clinical trials, they have been implanted into 24 children and young adults who were born with defective bladders, according to Smithsonian magazine. If the trials continue to be successful, this can become a standard treatment for patients who have had bladder cancer in addition to those who have congenital disabilities or other conditions.

This new technology will hopefully make organ rejection a thing of the past and will allow many patients to live fuller and better lives.

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