Bioengineering—A (Re)growing Trend
100MAmericans who could benefit from regenerative, bioengineered-cell therapies
The NIH has estimated that over 100 million Americans could benefit from regenerative therapies that use bioengineered cells to repair damaged tissue after a heart attack, cancer surgery or a car crash. Programmed stem cells have regenerated muscle in mice. The first human trials are underway in China, the UK and the US to test stem-cell generated heart patches. Dr. Anthony Atala at Wake Forest has successfully implanted lab-grown organs like esophagi and bladders into human patients.
A team at Tufts University led by biologist Michael Levin and funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s Frontiers Group is using guided application of electrical fields to help regrow body parts. Levin’s group recently used instructions formulated in what the group calls “the morphogenic code” to turn frog stem cells into self-organizing teams of programmable “Xenobots” that can develop specialized cell structures to move around and record information about their own movements—a major step toward regrowing human limbs and organs.
If a salamander can regenerate its limbs, why can’t a human? The fact is that humans do regenerate. We’re regenerating all the time. The question therefore is how can you induce further regeneration?
Anthony Atala, MD
Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine