Scientists Use DNA ‘Velcro’ To Print Human Tissue In The Lab

We need more organs. At any given moment, more than 123,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant. Each year, 6,500 of them die for want of a donor. Moreover, between 15 and 50 percent of patients lucky enough to receive a transplant from a donor — depending on the organ — suffer from acute organ rejection within five years.

For that reason, scientists across the country are racing to develop a way to grow organs in the lab. The dream is to eventually use a patient’s own cells to construct new kidneys, livers, hearts and lungs that would be impervious to rejection by their immune systems — in other words, a way to let patients be their own organ donors.

What makes this hard is that the techniques humans use for manufacturing most things don’t work for organs. A car “has lots of pieces, and they fit together very nicely, and they’re guided to the correct position by a human hand or a robot, and then welded together into this complex machine,” said Dr. Zev Gartner, an associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. “Tissues and organs, on the other hand, self-assemble in a process that’s guided by rules that are quite distinct from the way that we as humans think about building stuff.”

One key challenge is getting blood vessels to the right place. It’s essential, because blood vessels deliver life-sustaining oxygen and nutrients to the cells, but the tiny vessels travel circuitous paths through organs — surrounded at all times by other types of cells.

This week, researchers from Gartner’s lab unveiled a technique that could help overcome this obstacle. The team developed a method for assembling living cells (from both mice —> Read More