MGH Researchers Close To Growing Human Limbs

Prosthetics may become a thing of the past – not just yet, but hopefully in a decade or so.

At present, there are well over 1.5 million people across the United States who have lost a limb, and many are utilizing prosthetics to live a more fuller and meaningful life.

However – and call this a world first – researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have announced big news: they have discovered a way to grow a rat’s forearm.

The news means that someday amputees could actually grow their own limbs back.

The World’s First Bio Limb

The team of leading researchers discovered a way to grow a rat’s forearm in their laboratory.

“We are focusing on the forearm and hand… But the techniques would equally apply to arms, legs and other extremities,” says Harald Ott, a lead researcher on the project.

Their ground breaking research has been published in the Biomaterials Journal. Their paper highlights how Ott's team utilized the same approach used in constructing bioartificial organs (kidneys, livers and hearts).

“The composite nature of our limbs makes building functional biological replacement particularly challenging,” explains Ott. “Limbs contain muscles, bone, cartilage, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and nerves - each of which has to be rebuilt and requires specific supporting structure call the matrix. We have shown that we can maintain the matrix of all of these tissues in their natural relationships to each other, that we can culture the entire construct over prolonged periods of time, and then we can repopulate the vascular system and musculature.”

Over the years prosthetics have advanced greatly. Still though, many are clunky and limit proper functionality. And advanced prosthetics, that is the top-of-the-line ones, are far, far too expensive for most to afford.

As well, over the last two decades there have been a number of amputees who have received hand transplants.

Ott’s team is making history with their discovery, bringing new hope for amputees not only in the US but around the world.

So, how exactly did he and his team find a way to grow a rat’s forearm?

Ott has been active with reconstructing organs and has taken a decellularization technique to a whole new level. He has found a way to totally remove the cells from the forearms of dead rats, then placing in vascular cells through the process of injection. The vascular cells were injected into the muscle cells, main artery and muscle receptors. The outcome: the limbs immediately grew blood and paws formed.

Science Fiction Is Coming To Life

Ott and his team are making headlines around the world with their new discovery. They plan next on testing out their research on baboons, and pretty soon they will be conducting human trials.

“You move everybody out, and then you move new living cells into that framework,” says Ott

Ott’s discovery is simply amazing, and it will be fascinating to see what happens when the human trials take place.

While prosthetics are expensive, it is more than safe to assume that a bio-engineered limb will come with a hefty price tag.

But it will be worth it – just ask any amputee. Living without a limb brings on challenges on many levels – mentally and physically.

Ott hopes to change all that. He wants to someday soon bring new solutions for millions of people around the world who have lost a limb, or who were born without one.

And that day is indeed coming soon.