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Doctors could soon be growing body parts

Tuesday 5th January 2016
Doctors believe they have found a way to grow body parts in a lab. Image: iStock/kasto80
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Groundbreaking new research from doctors in Swansea has led to hope that scientists could soon be growing body parts in labs, which could have life-changing benefits for burns sufferers and those who have lost facial features in particular.

Doctors at the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery at Morriston Hospital believe their pioneering techniques could be in use on humans within the next three years.

BBC News reports that, in simple terms, the method involves creating new cells in an incubator, with 3D printing technology allowing them to be shaped into body parts such as noses or ears, before they are placed back into the container to grow further.

Known as 3D bioprinting, the technology enables doctors to print pieces of biological tissue, which can then be mixed with a specially-designed liquid to allow them to be moulded into body part shapes.

Then, scientists are able to provide these models with the right environment they need to develop into working pieces of cartilage, before they can be transferred to people, enabling the replacement of body parts that have been lost due to accidents or illnesses.

To begin with, it would only be cartilage-based body parts that would be able to be grown in this way, as there is currently no technology or method that is able to grow bones.

Further research is now being planned on animals, before ethical testing gets underway to make sure the process is as safe as possible to be used on humans.

Professor Iain Whitaker, a consultant plastic surgeon who is working on the project, explained: "The good news in the future is, if our research is successful, within two months you'd be able to recreate a body part which was not there without having to resort to taking it from another part of the body, which would cause another defect or scar elsewhere."

Written by James Puckle

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