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  • [TRACE] Right now, scientists are attempting to grow ears, kidneys, blood vessels, livers,

  • even hearts.

  • In fact, at the moment there are some people walking around with lab-grown bladders.

  • But this is rare.

  • In the U.S., over 80 percent of transplanted organs come from the deceased.

  • The rest are donated by the livingexcept for a small number that are grown in laboratories.

  • However, this could all change fairly soon.

  • In the not too distant future, you might have a spare heart, kidney or liver grown for you

  • in a lab.

  • And someday there could be warehouses full of new organs.

  • So how close are we to farming human body parts?

  • [TRACE] Last year, there was a record number of organ transplants in the United States

  • - over 30 thousand!.

  • Which sounds like a lot, but the waiting list for organ donation is over 100-thousand.

  • There just aren't enough organs to go around!

  • [DR.

  • ANTHONY ATALA] In a 20-year period, the actual number of patients on the transplant list

  • has gone up six-fold, 600 percent...So, really, there's a dire need for organs for patients.

  • At the moment, the main way to get an organ is from a donor, but what if we could just

  • cook up our own from scratch?

  • [DR.

  • ANTHONY ATALA] We have placed lab-grown organs into patients already, we have a number of

  • tissues we have implanted into patients.

  • And the goal is to increase the number of patients that can benefit from these technologies.

  • [TRACE] And Dr Atala knows.

  • He led the team that developed the first lab-grown organ to be transplanted into a human in 2006.

  • It was a bladder which, to be fair, is a pretty simple structure.

  • But what about organs that are more complex?

  • [TODD McDEVITT]: Each of them actually, even the ones that may look simple, have their

  • unique challenges to them

  • [DR. ANTHONY ATALA] there are some things which are harder to make than others.

  • For example, there's a level of complexity as we look at tissues with flat structures

  • such as skin being the least complex.

  • They're flat, mostly one major cell type.

  • Tubular structures, like blood vessels, are the second level of complexity.

  • Hollow non-tubular organs, like the stomach, the bladder, are the third level of complexity.

  • And by far the most complex are the solid organs, like the heart, the lung, the kidney,

  • the liver.

  • [TODD McDEVITT] As they get more complex in terms of the numbers of cells involved and

  • the structural features, the complexity of those.

  • The brain is certainly one that many people, I think, would say is among the list of higher

  • tissues or organs to try and create.

  • [TRACE] Now, there are scientists who are working on growing brains in the lab, but

  • so far they've only produced miniature, partially functioning brains, about the size

  • of a piece of popcorn.But these aren't being grown to implant into humans, they're being

  • used for medical testing.

  • Like, seeing how the Zika virus affects the human brain.

  • Now, how are scientists doing all this?

  • Well, growing organs and organ tissue comes down to our good friend, the stem cell.

  • Stem cells are the basis of all the cells in our body.

  • They're like children, and can grow up to be anything.

  • [DR.

  • ANTHONY ATALA] To grow a tissue, or an organ, one of the very first challenges to overcome

  • is really how to get the cells to grow.

  • [TODD McDEVITT] The pluripotent cell has the potential, at the earliest state, to turn

  • into heart and liver and lung.

  • Not just the tissue, but all the different cell types: the heart muscle cells, the blood

  • vessel cells--all of those necessary cells that you need to form a complex tissue or

  • organ.

  • [TRACE] Our old friend the stem cell is powerful.

  • It's already being used to grow things like skin and tracheas

  • [TODD McDEVITT] One thing we're interested in is using the power of stem cells to try

  • and grow or coax the cells to form the tissues, largely on their own so what are the minimal

  • cues, the minimal information we need to provide to let them do something they're already

  • capable of doing.

  • [TRACE] But we want to know about growing a complete organ, or let's say, an entire

  • farm of organs and that's where things get a little crazy.

  • Right now, scientists are creating organs and body parts using 3D printers.

  • They make a biocompatible plastic scaffold, stems cells are placed onto it, and then they

  • pop that whole thing into an incubator that mimics the conditions of the human body.

  • [DR.

  • ANTHONY ATALA] Through the 3D printers we're really trying many different types of tissues.

  • We use, basically, your typical, imaging software program that's available at every major

  • hospital where you can really three-dimensionally configure what the organ really looks like

  • and then to develop our own software program that can then download the information from

  • an x-ray, then you can print a structure to fit that specific defect in that patient

  • [TRACE] While we can print simple structures, solid organs are more complex - engineers

  • need to figure out how to connect blood vessels and tissues within the same organ.

  • Which ain't easy.

  • [DR.

  • ANTHONY ATALA] The most difficult organs to create are the solid organs.

  • But the future really is can we actually create structure so we can put in,to either augment,

  • or replace these solid organs.

  • [TRACE] Then we have to overcome another huge obstacle.

  • Even if we can make these organs, how can we produce them on a large scale and farm

  • them?

  • How do we meet the demand of thousands and thousands of patients.

  • It's a process that could to take decades.

  • [TODD McDEVITT] So, realistically speaking, I think that widespread manufacturing and

  • availability of large organs that are produced in a lab or reactor setting: we're still a

  • long ways away because of some of the challenges that we face in growing them reproducibly

  • to that size.

  • Where I see in the shorter-term success--five, ten year period--is that, can we make small

  • pieces of them?

  • Can we make lots of them?

  • [DR.

  • ANTHONY ATALA] In terms of solid organs, it's still gonna be a while.

  • In terms of the less complex organs, such as flat, tubular and hollow non-tubular organs,

  • we're already there.

  • We're putting these into patients now.

  • [TODD McDEVITT] One of the big ones of the moment is the manufacturing.

  • Can you make enough of this and can you make it repeatedly enough so that it's deemed

  • safe?

  • You can't just make it once and it be very different the next time.

  • That's not acceptable.

  • [TRACE] So we've come a long way.

  • But seeing row upon row of hearts, livers and kidneys being grown and delivered to you

  • via drone?

  • That's still the stuff of sci-fi for sure.

  • So take care of that liver.

  • Or don't.

  • Who am i, your dad?

  • [TRACE] If you want more of these videos, vote by subscribinghere!

  • And did you know scientists are trying to photograph an actual black hole?

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  • And thanks for watching Seeker.

[TRACE] Right now, scientists are attempting to grow ears, kidneys, blood vessels, livers,

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How Close Are We to Farming Human Body Parts?

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/16
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