Rethinking Healthcare

Scientists reach "holy grail" of tissue engineering

Scientists reach "holy grail" of tissue engineering

Posting in Healthcare

Stem cells from mice bone marrow have been engineered to function as part of other organs.

Many of the most debilitating diseases involve a loss of cells - diabetes, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's for example. What if your own tissue could be used to regenerate what's lost?

Researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Paris Descartes report success in doing just that in the French journal Comptes Rendus Biologies.

They took adult stem cells from mice bone marrow and used them to generate the tissue of other organs such as the heart, brain and pancreas.

"Finding stem cells capable of restoring function to different damaged organs would be the Holy Grail of tissue engineering," lead author David Trisler of the University of Maryland School of Medicine says in a press statement.

The team found the bone marrow stem cells to be as potent as embryonic stem cells in developing into other types of tissue. And, harvesting a person's own bone marrow cells would be far less invasive than other methods of gathering stem cells.

The next step will be confirming that the technique is as effective in humans as it is in mice.

If that succeeds, creating organs from non-organ tissue raise some intriguing ethical questions - Should you only be allowed to receive organs derived from your own stem cells? If other people can give away their stem cells, should they be compensated? How would you put a price on organ tissue?

Photo: Nathan Reading/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure