September 18, 2012
Stem Cells in Action: Simple Organs Developed for Humans
Not too long ago, when Stem Cell research became the new medical miracle buzz-word and received the support of a prominent Senator, I saw an opportunity that had hitherto been unavailable: growing transplant organs. The news was all the rage with the idea, but it hit very close to home: you see my wife donated her kidney to her younger brother. She was a very close match and made the transplant go really smoothly for him. But even so, the urologist still said he would most likely only have the kidney for 20 years before it was rejected. After reading about stem cells, I couldn't help but get excited. But as the years went by, the only news I read covered the controversy over embryonic stem cells and not the advancements that were being made in stem cell research. I feared that the future of human organ replacements using stem cells to grow organs would remain a very distant dream. Then I read this article about tailor-made organs in the New York Times, and I was thrilled! Here was a research specialist that was developing new simple organs (in this case a windpipe) using stem cells from bone marrow. The results have been promising, and future research is moving toward more complex organ growth. For anyone who has a family member that has received, or needs, a transplant, this news is nothing more than amazing. It could be possible in the near future that everyone who needs a transplant could have one within a few months, and will not need to take any rejection-inhibiting medication. No longer will recipients be denied a kidney, heart, or liver. Instead, they will have one "grown" from their own cells. And that will be a modern medical miracle that will help me rest easy at night.