Crown Prince's majlis hears from pioneering surgeon

Dr Anthony Atala explains how he uses various methods to grow human organs.

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ABU DHABI // An expert surgeon from Peru explained to the Crown Prince's majlis on Monday how human organs could be "grown".

The majlis of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, was hearing from Dr Anthony Atala, who in 2006 became the first doctor to grow in a laboratory a bladder that could then be implanted into a human.

Dr Atala showed the majlis a video clip to explain how burnt skin could be regenerated. He said scientists could take a burn victim's cells, regenerate them and then spray them back on the burn, healing the wound in much the same way as a salamander does when it regrows its tail.

Dr Atala explained that solid organs were the most difficult to reproduce. He showed how an ear was put in an oven-like machine, and "cooked" to allow the cells to grow before it could be attached to a patient.

He went on to explain an experimental procedure using discarded organs that were "decellularised", so they could be used in patients who might not match with the donor. "Washed organs" could be used once they were "printed" with the cells of the recipient, he said. "If we take a liver into a washing machine - or a device that is like a washing machine - and use very mild detergent, two weeks later, we end up with something that looks and feels like a liver but has no cells," he said. "We then take this vascular structure, and we need to print the patient's cells on one layer at a time." Dr Atala used the metaphor of an ink jet printer to describe the process.

"Today we are growing over 30 different types of organs, six are already in patients. The goal for us is to increase the number of organs we can use and to increase the number of patients who can benefit from them," said the doctor.