Most of you know or have heard about stem cells, just so that we’re all on the same table – here’s a WikiReminder:
Stem cells are biological cells found in all multicellular organisms, that can divide (through mitosis) and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to produce more stem cells. In mammals, there are two broad types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells, which are isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts, and adult stem cells, which are found in various tissues. In adult organisms, stem cells and progenitor cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all the specialized cells (these are called pluripotent cells), but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin, or intestinal tissues. [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_cell]
Long description but what should stand out here is the ability to use a person’s own cell to regenerate an internal organ, either to repair or create. That is such a significant advancement in human biology and operations that it just boggles my mind. It shows a possibility of humans eventually repairing their own organs themselves, like the Wolverine.
In the source article, we witness how Dr. Paolo Macchiarini fixed and partially re-newed larynx organ for his patient, and the cells acquired for this stem-cell transplant was from the patient himself! What is the larynx?
The larynx (plural larynges), commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the neck of amphibians, reptiles, and mammals (including humans) involved in breathing, sound production, and protecting the trachea against food aspiration. It manipulates pitch and volume. The larynx houses the vocal folds (commonly but improperly termed the “vocal cords”), which are essential for phonation. The vocal folds are situated just below where the tract of the pharynx splits into the trachea and the esophagus.
That, is, spectacular!
The doctor has successfully performed these surgeries on more than 2 patients now. Patients were actually “missing” this organ since birth, which hindered their ability to speak or communicate properly. Post-operation and the patients are as healthy as a person with normal larynx organs. Doctor’s next mission is to re-generate a larynx organ completely, from scratch – as if the organ never existed. This will be useful for patients missing an arm, leg, eyes, brain, etc. Possibilities are endless.
Source: New Scientist