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Synthetic organs

The medical industry's solution to organ shortage: Lab-grown, genetically engineered organs

Thursday, June 27, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: synthetic organs, organ transplants, genetically modified humans

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(NaturalNews) It is no secret that there simply are not enough donor organs to go around for every patient in the world that needs one. But the medical industry's latest solution this problem, manufacturing genetically-engineered (GE) organs and organ tissue in a laboratory may prove to cause more harm than good in the long run, as the long-term side effects of splicing man-made tissues and other foreign materials into people's bodies are still largely unknown.

But the practice is already taking place, according to a recent Associated Press (AP) report, at least in a preliminary sense. Numerous patients around the world have already had synthetic blood vessels, windpipes, bladders, and other so-called "minor" organs and tissues, for instance, implanted into their bodies using a technology that involves affixing real human cells onto synthetic scaffolds. And so far the process has largely been a success, according to reports, with scientists hoping to expand the technology to more vital organs later on down the road.

According to Dr. Harald Ott from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the ultimate goal with the technology is to be able to "regenerate an organ that will not be rejected (and can be) grown on demand and transplanted surgically, similar to a donor organ." By using the blood or stem cells of either the actual patients receiving the transplants or people who are close matches, scientists hope to replicate real organs by triggering a type of conduit in which the required cells are drawn to the transplanted cells, ultimately replacing them and regenerating on their own.

"This seed-and-scaffold approach to creating a body part is not as simple as seeding a lawn," explains AP writer Malcolm Ritter about the process. "In fact, the researchers ... had been putting the lab-made blood vessels into people for nearly a decade in Japan before they realized that they were completely wrong in their understanding of what was happening inside the body," he adds, noting that the seeded cells eventually die when the migrating cells come in to take their place.

Scientists also working on breeding genetically-modified animals for human transplantation

From this perspective, the lab-grown transplant process might appear to be a whole lot more natural than even current GE crop technologies, which literally involve transplanting foreign DNA in unrelated species for long-term production. But everything is not as it seems in the artificial transplant world, as scientists have also been actively developing and breeding both cloned and genetically-modified (GM) animals, including even pig-human hybrids, for the purpose of harvesting their organs and implanting them into humans.

"[S]ome scientists have begun trying to make pig-human hybrids for xenotransplantation, defending their pursuit with the persuasive outcome-based justification that such hybrids may alleviate the critical shortage of human organs," explains The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity.

Another less-disturbing framework being used to develop manufactured organs and blood vessels involves creating templates with 3-D printers and various artificial materials, and applying real human cells to their surface to trigger the more natural production of cells by the body. However, even this process lacks the long-term safety studies required to show that the synthetic materials underneath the cells will not wreak havoc on the rest of normal human physiology.

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