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Wake Forest Researchers Advance Tissue Engineering

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist University Hospital have been able to regrow simple body parts out of injured patients' own cells.  Anthony Atala and his colleagues at the Institute of Regenerative Medicine have been able to rebuild the urethras of boys injured or born with birth defects. The urethra is the tube that drains the bladder. Atala says he harvests cells from other parts of the patients' bodies. Then he uses a special mesh framework for the cells to grow around.

" Once tubularized, we coat the outside with the muscle cells, one layer at a time, very much like baking a layer cake, if you will. We then layer the inside with lining cells in the same manner. Once it's fully seeded place this tubularized construct in an oven-like device."

Atala says 1 to 2 weeks later he can implant the constructed tubes back into patients. All five patients who have had the procedure are doing well after six years. Atala says the technique could be used to reconstruct other tubular body structures, such as blood vessels or a child's esophagus.

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