Grow Your Own Organs

Grow Your Own Organs
BBC. November 2013
Pioneer scientist Dame Julia Polak speaks to Adam Shaw about one day growing our own organs

Before we turned up to interview our main guest for this programme, we were all asked to confirm we didn’t have a cold, were well and certainly did not have anything infectious. We were filming a leading light of medicine who, because she has had a heart and lung transplant, was very susceptible to any disease. She is typical of a new frontier of medical advance in which the future of medicine lies not in the hands of traditional medical experts but with bio-engineers

This new technology builds new body parts from the cells up, enabling patients to receive new transplants from tissues grown from their own bodies. It is a science in its infancy but it has the power to transform the way we think of medicine and ageing.

Imperial College London. Dame Julia Polak is founder of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre at Imperial College. Extraordinarily, in 1995 she was also the recipient of a heart and lung transplant, making her one of the longest survivors of the procedure. It was an experience which led her to a pioneering career in the fledgling science of growing new organs from cells.

The new technologies mean scientists can create a three-dimensional structure which can be implanted into the patient. There have been some initial clinical trials for the heart and for the bladder.

A group in the US created a three-dimensional tissue engineered bladder in the laboratory and implanted it into children and eight years on the bladder is still working.

Dame Julia Polak admits the new knowledge may mean, in theory, we could live forever.
“Who knows what will happen in five or ten years but there are lots of hurdles to overcome because there are regulatory hurdles, financial hurdles and creating an atmosphere of really multidisciplinary teams including everybody including patients

Stanford University in California.
Professor Ada Poon has developed a revolutionary prototype device. Powered and controlled by radio waves generated outside of the body, it is so small it could move through a patient’s bloodstream, collecting medical data or delivering medication.
This could be the start of miniature robot doctors searching through your body, looking for problems and fixing them.

It sounds like a movie but it’s probably too unbelievable for fiction. For the whole truth about the possibilities of future medicine, tune into our Horizons programme on robotics and the future of medicine.


Technobody A new science with the power to transform medicine and ageing

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