A lab-grown rat forelimb marks a historic step forward to creating biologically functional limbs for amputees.
via New Scientist:
IT MIGHT look like an amputated rat forelimb, but the photo above is of something much more exciting: the limb has been grown in the lab from living cells. It may go down in history as the first step to creating real, biologically functional limbs for amputees.
“We’re focusing on the forearm and hand to use it as a model system and proof of principle,” says Harald Ott of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who grew the limb. “But the techniques would apply equally to legs, arms and other extremities.”
You’ve got to hand it to them (Image: B J Jank, Ott Laboratory)
“This is science fiction coming to life,” says Daniel Weiss at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington, who works on lung regeneration. “It’s a very exciting development, but the challenge will be to create a functioning limb.”
Many amputees receive artificial replacements that look fine cosmetically, but don’t function as well as real limbs. And while bionic replacement limbs thatwork well are now being made, they look unnatural. Hand transplants have also been successful, but the recipient needs lifelong immunosuppressive drugs to prevent their body rejecting the hand.
A biolimb would get round many of these obstacles as it only contains cells from the recipient so would avoid the need for immunosuppression. It should also look and behave naturally.
“This is the first attempt to make a biolimb, and I’m not aware of any other technology able to generate a composite tissue of this complexity,” says Ott.