works with MIT scientists to create an artificial retina.
one of the pioneers of tissue engineering, Bob
Langer dreams of the day when scientists can build a whole
series of replacement parts, so if something breaks, from
your nose to your heart, doctors can have a new one on hand
in no time. The key, Langer has found, is providing the right
environment for cells to do their thing - the right type of
structure to grow on, the right nutrients and temperature
- all to trick them into behaving as they would inside the
is introduced to two fascinating products of Langer's lab
at MIT- a nose made from real cartilage, and pieces of heart
muscle made with living heart cells, beating away on a polymer
"scaffold." While Langer is currently working with animal
cells, the hope is that human cells will be available for
such work. In the effort to find new, and ethical, ways to
provide scientists with such cells, researchers at Advanced
Cell Technology show Alan how to take an adult human cell
and implant it in an unfertilized egg, allowing it to regain
its youth and multiply. Taken from a sick patient, such "home-grown"
cells could be used to fight illness without fear of rejection,
because a patient's own tissue would be doing the work.
artificial nose, actual cartilage, was made from stem
Back in Langer's lab, work with animal stem cells is showing
promise in building new retinas. Again, scientists start with
a polymer scaffold, this time made with tiny pores that mimic
an actual retina. Then Alan "seeds" the structure with retinal
stem cells, and away they grow. These scientists have implanted
just such an artificially produced retina into lab animals and
found that the body actually forms connections with the newcomer.
It's too soon to say if vision has been improved, but it's an
exciting next step toward achieving Langer's dream of the "body
more on this topic, see the web feature:
Stem Cell 101