Remember John Wayne Bobbitt? 20 years ago his wife severed his manhood from his body with a knife, an act of revenge that made headlines and facial winces from guys across the world. His disembodied member was eventually reattached, but if it had happened today, it might not have needed to be.
'Why?' i hear you ask, well because a team of scientists at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, headed up by Dr. Anthony Atala, are growing penises in the lab.
Yep, the day has come. We, as a species, are able to grow schlongs in a lab using the cells of other penises. No word yet on whether they can attach them to people's heads, but they can definitely grow them. Although it has proved tricky.
From the Guardian:
To some, engineering human organs sounds like science fiction, but for Atala it’s an absolute necessity. As we live longer (and thus our organs fail more) the shortage of organs for donation will only get worse. If he can work out how to generate the organs people need in a reliable and effective way, the technology can improve a lot of people’s lives. In 2006, Atala and his team announced the first successful bioengineered organ transplant, a bladder, which had been implanted into seven patients in 1999. Earlier this year he announced the successful follow-up of four women given bioengineered vaginas in 2005-2008. Despite these successes, he says, the penis is proving trickier.
Organs increase in architectural complexity as they go from flat structures such as skin, cylindrical structures such as the vagina, to hollow non-tubular organs such as the bladder. As a solid organ, the penis tops this list in both density of cells and structural complexity. It consists of a spongy erectile tissue unique to it. During an erection, signals from the nerves trigger blood vessels to dilate, filling this spongy tissue with blood and causing the penis to lengthen and stiffen.
Atala and his team have been researching in this field for over 20 years. The first few years were tough, but then they had a breakthrough.
“We were completely stuck,” says Atala of the first few years of research in the early 90s. “Even the idea of the field of regenerative medicine was brand new at the time. We had no idea how to make this structure, let alone make it so it would perform like the natural organ.” Then, in 1994, he figured he could take a helping hand from Mother Nature. Using a technique pioneered for biological skin dressings, he would take a donor penis and soak it in a mild detergent of enzymes for a couple of weeks to wash away the donor cells.
“You’re left with a mostly collagen scaffold – a skeleton if you like, that looks and feels just like the organ,” explains James Yoo, one of Atala’s collaborators at the institute. “Think of it like a building. If you remove all the furniture and the people, you’re still left with the main structure of the building. Then you replace the tenants with new ones. That’s the whole idea. It’s just that the building is a penis and the tenants are cells.” (via)
The hope is that within the next five years they'll do human clinical trials and if successful, you could be able to get a brand new penis grown straight from the lab.
In other news, shares in the dildo industry are reported to have plummeted since this story broke.