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Artificial humans could make animal testing nearly obsolete

Artificial humans

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(NaturalNews) Tissue engineering and organ growing operations are leaving the realm of science fiction and entering human reality. The future of life-saving organ transplants hinges on organ farming technology which uses a patient's preexisting tissue as "seed" to develop fully functioning organs.

Remarkably, this technology is working. Tengion, a biotechnology company located outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has already created a functioning "Neo-Bladder." The artificial bladder is derived from a patient's own cells and grows around a scaffold. In stage-two testing, the company has already implanted the Neo-Bladder into patients and studied how their body reacts and adapts.
At between five and seven weeks, the organ grows around the scaffold.

Another benefit of the artificial organ is that, during transplant, the patient's immune system doesn't need to be suppressed for the patient's body to accept the new organ. Since the organ is derived from the patient's own cells, their immune system doesn't have to be compromised during transplant.

The original pioneer of the artificial bladder and chairman of Tengion's scientific advisory board is Dr. Anthony Atala. Along with his research team at Wake Forest University Medical Center, Dr. Atala hopes to successfully grow and implant 22 different kinds of tissue, including muscle cells, arteries, fingers and entire heart valves.

Artificial organs to drastically reduce animal testing

There are more uses for artificial organs than organ transplants. Organs can also be farmed and used for medical and scientific testing purposes. For years, humans have conducted medical experiments exclusively on animals, killing more than 90 million creatures on average each year. But experiments using animal models may very well be a thing of the past as artificial humans and lab-grown organs replace the controversial technique.

The new research procedure is already being used to test the effect of cosmetics, chemicals and drugs on lungs, livers and kidneys grown in labs. Within years, entire body systems may be put together so researchers can study more in-depth, investigating chemical and drug toxicity on human organ systems. According to The Sunday Times, human machines that hold artificial organs will be able to replace animal experimentation for the most part in as soon as three years.

"If our system is approved by the regulators, then it will close down most of the animal-testing laboratories worldwide," said Uwe Markx, a tissue engineer from the Technical University of Berlin and founder of TissUse, a company developing the technology.

Medical research moving away from doing harm to animals

The new artificial humans would essentially be contained at what Markx calls "human farms." For example, these farms would wipe out the need for running complex diabetes experiments on monkeys. Just last year, 115 million animals were used as subjects worldwide. Most are killed either in the process or after they are no longer considered useful. Experts predict that 80 percent of animal testing around the world could go obsolete in the near future, with animal testing remaining in place for researching conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

Using artificial humans to conduct scientific studies sounds limited, especially since current models are far from being totally human. But according to Geraldine Hamilton, senior staff scientist at Harvard University's Wyss Institute, "These systems allow a much greater understanding of the mechanisms of the human body and give us insights that are not possible with animal studies."

Hamilton stated, "We are replacing animal testing right now."

Hamilton and his team are currently putting together a five-organ system to better study asthma in humans. Such complex five-organ systems are beginning to form the basis for a new generation of artificial humans that may one day lead to new scientific discoveries.

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