Rachel Feltman of The Washington Post has an article up today profiling the remarkable work being done at the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Its director, Anthony Atala, is a leader in the fields of lab-grown and 3D-printed organs. Earlier this year, Atala's team successfully implanted lab-grown vaginas in four patients with underdeveloped sex organs due to birth defects. The team is now looking to replicate that success with men via lab-grown penises.

Feltman explains how the incredible process works:

"Atala starts with a donor organ, then washes it in detergent to get rid of any cells that might be rejected by the new host. After a few weeks, his team is left with a sort of "scaffold" of the original organ.

Meanwhile, cells from whatever remains of the host's original penis are cultivated in the lab, giving the team a nice supply of the different types of cells required. Once the scaffold is ready, it's seeded with these cultivated cells."

That's right. A man with a deformed or missing penis could have a replacement made with his own cells grown in a lab. Not only would this be a tremendous breakthrough for the thousands of men with sexual birth defects, it's also big news for injured soldiers, particularly those whose lower halves have been torn up by IEDs. Human trials are likely to begin before the end of the decade, though Feltman notes that whether these reconstructed penises will be fully functional remains to be seen.

For more on this story and about penile reconstruction, keeping reading at The Washington Post

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