Urethra Grown From Patient's Own Cells

Scientists have grown urethras from the patients own cells for the first time.

Researchers say they have been able to repair injured urinary systems for five Mexican boys by using bladder cells grown in a laboratory.

"It's not so much science fiction anymore to think we can grow replacement organs," Patrick Warnke, a tissue engineering expert at Bond University in Australia told the Associated Press.

American doctors made the urethras after the boys were injured in accidents. Scientists took a small piece from the boys bladders and let the cells grow in a lab. They created a tiny mesh tube out of the material used to make dissolvable stitches.

Six years after being implanted the grafts are still doing well, doctors say. The replacements look and function exactly like a normal urethra in the five boys who are now entering their teens.

The study shows that "tissues can be engineered using the patients' own cells, and they last long term," said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and a co-author of the study.

In recent years, doctors have made new windpipes for patients partly from their own stem cells.

Doctors say the procedure could pave the way for the creation of other tube-like structures in the body, such as replacement arteries.

"When an organ or tissue is irreparably damaged or traumatically destroyed, no amount of drugs or mechanical devices will restore the patient back to normal," said Chris Mason, chair of regenerative medicine bio-processing at University College London, in a statement.

"If the goal is cure, then cell-based therapies are the answer."

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