Tags: living | arm | grown | lab | biolimb

Living Arm Grown in Lab

By    |   Thursday, 04 Jun 2015 02:24 PM


A team of researchers has created the first biolimb by bringing a dead limb back to life. The breakthrough technology is a major development towards the development of bioartificial limbs that would grow new limbs for amputees.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital used techniques previously applied to build bioartificial organs to develop rat forelimbs complete with functioning vascular and muscle tissue. They also supplied data showing that the same process could be used in primates.

More than 1.5 million Americans have lost a limb. While prosthetics have improved, and the most recent advances use sensors implanted in muscles that allow the amputees to control their limbs subconsciously, most prosthetics are limited in both function and appearance. Some amputees have received donor hand transplants, and while the procedure can improve their quality of life, they have to take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of their lives.

"The composite nature of our limbs makes building a functional biological replacement particularly challenging," said Harold Ott, M.D. "Limbs contain muscles, bone, cartilage, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and nerves — each of which has to be rebuilt and requires a specific supporting structure called the matrix. We have shown that we can maintain the matrix of all of these tissues in their natural relationships to each other, that we can culture the entire construct over prolonged periods of time, and that we can repopulate the vascular system and musculature."

In the past, Ott has used the same technique to regenerate hearts, livers, lungs, and kidneys from animal models.

In the recent study, living cells were stripped from a donor forearm while preserving the vasculature and nerve matrix. At the same time, muscle and vascular cells were being grown in culture.

The matrix — or framework — that remained was then seeded with the blood and muscle cells and put in an incubator-like device, and then supplied with oxygen and nutrients and electrical stimulation to promote tissue growth. Within two to three weeks, the blood vessels and muscles had regenerated.

When the limb was attached to a rat, blood began flowing through it quickly, and the rat could even flex the wrist and digital joints of its new paw. Tests showed that the muscles contracted with strength which was 80 percent of that seen in newborn rats.

Besides advantages in the way biolimbs will appear and function, because they will be created from the person's own cells, no immune-suppressing drugs will be needed.
Dr. Ott says that it will probably be at least a decade before biolimbs can be tested on humans.


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A team of researchers has created the first biolimb by bringing a dead limb back to life. The breakthrough technology is a major development towards the development of bioartificial limbs that would grow new limbs for amputees. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital...
living, arm, grown, lab, biolimb
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2015-24-04
Thursday, 04 Jun 2015 02:24 PM
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