Replacing Body Parts—NOVA Science Now

This post is presented by SBE, the Society for Biological Engineering--a global organization of leading engineers and scientists dedicated to advancing the integration of biology with engineering.

Tyson at the NASA Advisory Council in Washingt...

In this fantastic piece entitled Replacing Body Parts on PBS's NOVA series, Neil deGrasse Tyson explores new research in the field of human organ transplantation. He notes that a common problem with organ donation is that the recipient's body rejects the transplant because it identifies the organ as being foreign. A new solution for this problem is to create an organ that is made of the recipient's own cells. The researchers included in the video, including Chemical Engineer and MIT professor Bob Langer, take organs from cadavers of humans or other mammals and wash out the cells with a chemical found in shampoo.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA scienceNOW.

When all of the cells have been removed, they are left with a translucent scaffold of the organ that only contains the protein framework of the organ. They can then drip in cells from the transplant recipient herself and the organ becomes restored and transplantable. Because it is made of the patient's cells, she will not reject the organ. This method was used to replace the lungs of a woman from Barcelona and she now lives a normal life free of tuberculosis.

What are your thoughts on this new finding in biological engineering?

images of Tyson and NOVA via Wikimedia Commons.


D. Crumbley's picture

I donated a kidney to my brother because his failed from Lupus. Ten years later, I was diagnosed with with Lupus and place on dialysis. I have had two transplants from cadavers. One transplant lasted 2 years and the other lasted 3 years before rejection. I am currently on hemo-dialysis awaiting my third kidney and I hope the science will catch up so I do not have to go through the rejection process again.

cora's picture

I am very curious to know if a diseased organ would have a damaged or a normal scaffold. Or which diseases damage the scaffolding and which don't.