Scientists at University College London are growing human body parts in laboratory conditions.
With this successful technology researchers have the possibility to eliminate the need for people to donate organs.
The team led by Professor Alexander Seifalian is part of the Department of Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine.
Because their organs are made from patients’ cells, the risk that they are rejected by the body is, in theory, eliminated.
“This is a nose we’re growing for a patient next month,” said Professor Alexander Seifalian.
“It’s a world first,” he says.
“Nobody has ever grown a nose before,” Seifalian added.
When the nose will be transferred onto the patient, it won’t be placed directly on his face, but it will be introduced in a balloon that will be implanted beneath the skin in the patient’s arm.
After a period of four weeks, during which the skin and blood vessels develop, the nose will be monitored and then transplanted.
“Other groups have tried to tackle nose replacement with implants but we’ve found they don’t last,” said Adelola Oseni, a team member.
“They migrate, the shape of the nose changes. But our one will hold itself completely, as it’s an entire nose shape made out of polymer,” she added.
The polymer which is used to design the nose is composed of billions of molecules, each measuring approximately a nanometer, making it 40,000 times smaller than the thickness of a hair.
Because they work at these dimensions, the material can be greatly detailed.
“Inside this nanomaterial are thousands of small holes,” said Seifalian.
“Tissue grows into these and becomes part of it. It becomes the same as a nose and will even feel like one,” he continued.
The exact recipe of this biocompatible material is a secret that is well kept and the university has already invested over Ł 100,000 in its design.
Researchers are also working on other organs in the laboratory: a trachea, which was used in the first transplant of an synthetic organ in history, ears or arteries.
“Normally for heart bypass you take a section of vein from the patient’s leg or arm. But 30 per cent of patients don’t have suitable veins so can’t have the operation. No alternative currently exists for them,” said Seifalian.
“We are the first in the world with this. Nobody else is even close. It has been successful in animal trials; this year it will be going for patient trials”.
“If we can grow a heart, a lung or a trachea in a lab, we don’t need to wait for donors.”
“This work has massive implications for the way we function as clinicians and the way medicine is practised,” Seifalian concluded.