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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com Boston Globe Online / Metro | Region May 23, 1999
transformations
The big fix
In the new millennium, development of "tissue engineering'' will create an array of spare parts to repair almost any conceivable flaw or injury in the body, as shown below. -by Richard Saltus, Globe Staff

POSSIBLE TODAY - Black text
IN THE FUTURE - Red text

1 Eye Plastic lenses are routinely implanted following cataract surgery.
Researchers hope to create an artificial
retina in the future.

3 Ear Electronic cochlear implants can replace damaged inner-ear tissues.
Scientists have shaped lab-grown cartilage to resemble the outer ear but have not yet applied it in people.
woman
9 Hip Replacing the hip's ball-and-socket joint with metal substitute is routine.

11 Bone Broken bones can be healed with grafts and bone cement.
Human proteins that regenerate bone have been used in research to heal stubborn breaks.

13 Bladder Tissue-engineered bladders have been placed in infants with congenital defects.
Cartilage to reduce incontinence is grown in the lab.

2 Brain Implants of human or animal nerve tissue into brain are being tried for Parkinson's disease.
In the future, versatile brain stem cells may be used to restore dying cells involved in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, and
other diseases.

4 Heart Human transplants are routine but limited by organ supply. Heart valves can be replaced by mechanical devices or taken from cadavers. Large arteries like the aorta can be replaced.
Mechanical heart replacement remains experimental. Tissue engineers are trying to grow heart valves in the lab.

5 Blood vessels Researchers are growing small-diameter arteries on polymer scaffolds lined with two layers of cells.
Could replace diseased arteries. In the future, stem cells may be used to fill in bone gaps.

6 Hand
Mechanical prosthetic hands are improving.
First human hand transplants (from cadaver) appear promising.

7 Nerves
Nerves in the limbs can be repaired and can regenerate.
Electricity-conducting polymer nerve replacements are in research. Work toward eventual regeneration of damaged spinal cord is promising but success appears far off.

8 Skin Synthetic skin substitutes and sheets of material containing living skin cells are now used to treat burns and severe skin ulcers.

10 Liver Transplants are common.
Researchers have grown tissues with some liver functions, but creating an entire liver is beyond today's science.

12 Finger joint Knuckles can be replaced with metal joints.
Recently, tissue engineering was used to form a finger joint, but it was not implanted in patients.

14 Pancreas Pancreas transplants are performed now.
Transplants of pancreatic beta-cells, which make insulin, are still in development stage for treating diabetes.

15 Breast Silicone implants are used for reconstruction today.
Research is underway to grow breast cells in the lab, mix them with polymer scaffolding material, and implant them to form new breast tissue.

TISSUE ENGINEERING is the term for fabricating organs using laboratory-grown human cells that are "seeded'' onto a biodegradable scaffold or form shaped like the desired organ. In addition, scientists have isolated various kinds of naturally occurring "stem cells'' in the body that they believe can be harnessed to regenerate many damaged tissues.


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