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Surprising Science

Could Lab-Grown Organs Make Us Immortal?

Doctors have successfully transplanted human windpipes grown in laboratories but vital organs, like hearts and kidneys, are much more complex. How far away is that technology?

What’s the Latest Development?

Human windpipes grown in laboratories using stem cells have successfully been transplanted into patients with cancerous esophagi. Scientists are now working to grow vital organs, like the heart and liver, but complications arise due to their complicated architecture, “featuring many different types of cells and an extensive network of blood vessels to provide them with oxygen and nutrients.” Unless these features can be incorporated into vital organs, which are necessary even at the microscopic level, lab-grown organs will stay small and simple. 

What’s the Big Idea?

To overcome these obstacles, scientists have begun taking whole organs from cadavers and soaking them in a detergent that strips away the cells, leaving just the natural scaffold of veins and connective tissue. Then scientists are free to seed that scaffold with stem cells from the transplant patient’s body. 3-D printers are also a promising avenue for growing organs and the blood vessels they contain. Massive organ failure is also known as dying of natural causes so might we be looking at the beginning of the end of the end of our lives?

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