Scientists at Wake Forest, USA, have implanted bladders grown from patients' cells. The seven patients had myelomeningocele, a congenital condition which causes a weak bladder. Several years later their bladder functions have significantly improved.

You can read about this 'breakthrough' in the medical journal THE LANCET.

Usually, patients with myelomeningocele are treated with reconstructive surgery - using tissue grafts from part of the small intestine or stomach to repair the damaged bladder. The problem with that is that it can lead to complications, such as osteoporosis, raised cancer risk and a higher chance of developing kidney stones.

In this 'milestone' of medical advance, doctors took a bladder biopsy from the patients, isolated muscle and urothelial cells and grew them in the lab. They were then move onto a scaffold, shaped like a bladder. Over a period of eight weeks they grew into bladders.

They were then attached to the patient's bladder. Five years later they followed all the seven patients up and found bladder function had significantly improved. There were none of the complications associated with the old system of using bowel and stomach tissue.

The researchers said they are now going to try to produce different organs in the lab, such as hearts and blood vessels.

Head researcher Dr Anthony Atala said: "This is one small step in our ability to go forward in replacing damaged tissues and organs. It is rewarding when you can see the improved quality of life in these patients. We wanted to go slowly and carefully and make sure we did it the right way. This is a small, limited experience, but it has enough follow-up to show us that tissue engineering is a viable tool that will allow us to tackle problems of similar magnitude."

Experts around the world have said that this 'milestone' is probably the beginning of a revolution in transplantation. The ability to grow your own organs rather than looking around for a donor.


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