Massachusetts Researchers Grow World's First Bioengineered Rat Limb
07 Sep 2015

 Researchers have cracked the code to grow bioengineered limbs. Rat limbs, that is.

A group of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have managed to grow the world's first bioengineered rat's forearm. They created a replica of the rat's blood vessels and muscles by using a bioreactor and a technique that has already been used to regrow kidneys, livers and hearts.

To recreate the arm, researchers had to first strip away the cells from a donor limb by using a special detergent. After a week, all that was left was the arm's collagen scaffold. The researchers then seed the muscle and vascular progenitor cells onto the scaffold. Over time the scaffold then helped the cells build the appropriate blood vessels and muscle tissue.

Since researchers already managed to successfully grow a replacement arm, they will now focus on learning how to regrow nerves, bone, cartilage and connective tissue.

 "In clinical limb transplantation, nerves do grow back into the graft, enabling both motion and sensation," Herald Ott, study author and surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a statement. "We have learned that this process is largely guided by the nerve matrix within the graft. We hope in future work to show that the same will apply to bioartificial grafts."

Ott and his group of researchers hope that with this research they can push forward development of bioartificial hands and some day have the right technique suitable for transplantation. The procedure would also offer hope that one day amputees may receive fully functional, biological replacement limbs.