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Penile erectile tissue grown in lab

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rabbit penile erectile tissue grown labAdvances in tissue bioengineering have enabled lab-grown bladders, tracheas, cardiac patches and now penis parts.

Researchers from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston–Salem, N.C., have engineered full animal replacement corpora cavernosas, the columns of tissue that fill with blood during an erection, for rabbits—in what they called "the most complete functional replacement of erectile tissue reported to date," in a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Because the sponge-like tissue is so rare, attempts to surgically repair damaged organs have been challenging and have often called upon artificial materials such as silicon. It is the frequent lack of tissue that "currently prevents us from restoring sexual function to these patients," Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine and chair of the Department of Urology and co-author of the study, said in a prepared statement.

In an effort to solve that dilemma, he and the Wake Forest team have devised a method to grow new smooth muscle and endothelial cells—from erectile material harvested from each individual—with which they seeded a collagen matrix for implantation (in the experimental rabbits).

Twelve male rabbits had both of their corpora cavernosas surgically removed from their penises and then replaced with the cell-seeded scaffolds. A control group had their corpora cavernosas replaced with un-seeded scaffolds.

As soon as one month after the procedure, male rabbits with repaired corpora cavernosas—and those with the unseeded scaffolds—were introduced to females. Most control rabbits without the bioengineered tissue avoided copulation, but all of the reinvigorated rabbits tried mating with the females within 60 seconds, the authors report. Of the 12 mating males, eight achieved ejaculation (evaluated via vaginal swabs of the females) and four had impregnated their partners. None of the control rabbits produced ejaculation-positive swabs.

"These results are encouraging," Atala, who in 2006 was among the researchers to report the first successful transplant of laboratory-grown organs (bladders), said in a prepared statement. "They indicate the possibility of using laboratory-engineered tissue in men who require reconstructive procedures."

Other procedures can partially restore function to a damaged phallus, and Atala’s team has previously shown they could replace a small portion of the tissue (they had up to a 50 percent success rate in rabbits). But this is the first time full corpus cavernosas have been successfully replaced, the authors stated.

The researchers acknowledge that the procedure is not yet ready for prime-time—human application, but they plan to continue research to that end.

"Our hope is that patients with congenital abnormalities, penile cancer, traumatic injury and some cases of erectile dysfunction will benefit from this technology in the future," Atala said in a prepared statement. Indeed, perhaps many of these patients will some day be able to breed, if not like rabbits, then at least like average men.

Image of rabbits not used in the experiment courtesy of iStockphoto/GlobalIP

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  1. 1. sanoran 1:19 pm 11/10/2009

    Capitalism meets science! Forget about curing cancer, or growing heart tissue…. what we really need is harder penises! And Bob Dole will take a bribe and do a commercial (maybe it will be Nancy Pelosi this time?), then FDA will declare lack of erectile tissue as a ‘life-threatening’ disease, -and health-insurance will be required to pay for it. Absurd? Not really. That’s what happened with Viagra, -they had to invent a disease so that they could justify insurance money. And we wonder what is wrong with our health care system and congress.

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  2. 2. jkg 7:55 pm 11/11/2009

    Lemme smash your penis (or clit, I can’t assume) with a hammer and tell me that it doesn’t matter.

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  3. 3. wizmonkey98 10:58 am 11/14/2009

    Yes, clearly torturing little bunny rabbits is worth helping people have even more babies.

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  4. 4. sympathetic wife 9:10 pm 11/14/2009

    I’m thinking your husband is able to be involved in sex. Well, mine had peyronies disease. The urologist that did the surgery only made him worst. He lost at least 2 inches off the length and can now sustain an erection for only a minute or so and that isn’t even a full erection. He doesn’t even feel like a man anymore and I’m talking about a 45 year old, who was very sexually active. Now we can’t make love at all. Could you go for over a year and not have sex?? Maybe it will happen to you or your husband . I don’t know if you’re male or female but me…I’d do what it takes to make my husband be able to make love to me again and feel like a real man..not a eunich! Think about others before you run your mouth.

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  5. 5. sympathetic wife 9:12 pm 11/14/2009

    Or maybe one of the other could be cut off!!!

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  6. 6. sympathetic wife 9:14 pm 11/14/2009

    I have 4 sons but I know people who would give everything they have to be able to be parents. Do you have something against having babies…maybe you’re a lesbian or homosexual!

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  7. 7. wizmonkey98 10:17 pm 11/14/2009

    No, I’m not (not that it would be a bad thing if I was–homophob) but it doesn’t take an idiot to see that the planet is grossly overpopulated as it is. Obviously I feel bad for people who have trouble having sex, but if you are going to pour millions of dollars and animal lives into a research initiative it should at least be for a life-threatening disease.

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  8. 8. Student503 10:26 am 11/18/2009

    ok Mother Teresa, " if you are going to pour millions of dollars and animal lives into a research initiative it should at least be for a life-threatening disease" Go sell your house, you car than walk across the country telling the world what you believe is right. Otherwise stop being so in-authentic, hypocrital telling other people how to spend their money!

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  9. 9. wizmonkey98 4:12 pm 11/18/2009

    I’m pretty sure Bob the slave owner would have made the same argument about "telling other people how to spend their money!" And before you call me a hypocrite, you might actually want to look up what that means. I haven’t given you any information about me that would lead you to the conclusion that I’m a hypocrite.

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