Lab grown Penises could be available to men in the not too distant future. Scientists have been developing the opportunity to help people with congenital problems or those who have experienced traumatic injury or undergone aggressive cancer surgery.
As the technology develops further to enable the growth of body parts, Massachusetts General Hospital has grown a fully functioning forearm for a rat and successfully transplanted it onto the animal. The technique will further advance the idea that we can create biological replacements for amputees, grow penises or many other body parts for that matter.
The team in Massachusetts first of all took the limb from a deceased rat and treated it with a detergent to strip away the soft tissue, leaving behind the basic network of bones, veins and tendons. Next they refreshed the limb using cells taken from the recipient, which greatly reduces the possibility of the limb being rejected. This involved injecting vascular cells called myoblasts into appropriate areas of the scaffold to encourage muscle to grow. After leaving it to develop into a nutrient solution for five days, they electronically stimulated the muscles to further promote formation.
When the limb was transplanted onto an anesthetised rat, it quickly filled with blood, which was able to circulate normally. To assess whether the muscles were working normally, the scientists stimulated them with electrical pulses and found the animal limb could flex.
The team behind the lab grown penis is from North Carolina where they operate at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem. The team are currently at the stage of checking the penises for function, performance and safety and they intend to get approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to test within 4 years.
The lab grown penis technology has been building for some time. In 2008, Professor Anthony Atala who leads the project, over saw the growth of rabbit penises, which was very encouraging. One of the key challenges for humans revolve around the need to demonstrate that the material the penis are grown from is not going to be toxic.
New penises would be developed using the patient’s cells to attempt to avoid the big risk of immunological rejection after the organ transplantation. This would involve the cells being taken from their existing penis and grown in culture for 4-6 weeks.
For the structure they use a similar method to rat forearm and wash a donor penis in a mild detergent to remove the donor cells. In two weeks of this treatment a collagen scaffold of the penis is left. The team then seed the cultured cells from the patient. This involves the smooth muscles first, then the endothelial cells that exist in the blood vessels.
Because the process uses the patients own penis specific cells it means the method will not be available for gender reassignments of women to men. However, it could potentially open up a whole new vanity market that could compete in value with the huge sums that are spent on breast augmentation.