Scientists in the U.S who have previously grown tissue for a number of organs including hearts, bladder and kidneys have now managed to successfully grow penises.
Awaiting FDA approval
The government-funded laboratory in North Carolina has developed six human penises that they hope to transplant once they are given approval by the FDA, Mashable states. If all goes according to plan, the penises should be tested on humans within five years. The penises will be fully functional, enabling the recipient to maintain an erection, have sex, ejaculate and successfully produce children, assuming no other medical conditions exist.
This medical innovation could potentially change the lives of many men who suffer from erectile dysfunction or other urological issues as a result of injury, genetics or diseases such as cancer. As the research is funded by the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, it is also intended to help soldiers who have sustained injuries to their genitals, the Guardian states.
Currently there are few options for men in such circumstances: penis transplants, penis implants or penis reconstruction using tissue from other parts of the body.
Penis transplantation is extremely uncommon, fairly risky and has sparked fierce debate internationally from an ethical perspective.
Penile implantation involves inserting a semi-rigid or inflatable structure into the penis, therefore enabling the recipient to engage in sex. According to WebMD, penile implants will not necessarily assist the recipient in reaching an orgasm or ejaculating and will not correct existing issues with fertility.
Read: Penis implant to help treat erectile dysfunction
Process of bio-engineering penises
Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Professor Antony Atala initially attached laboratory-grown penises to rabbits in 2008. Eight out of twelve rabbits managed to ejaculate, with four successfully producing offspring. More information on this 2008 study is available here.
According to Mashable, the process of bio-engineering a penis involves using donor penis as a base. The penis is soaked in a solution for two weeks to remove the donor’s DNA. This prevents the recipient’s body from rejecting the penis once it is attached. Cells taken from the patient are cultivated in the lab for 6 weeks before they are placed onto the base.
The Guardian reports that this procedure requires either internal or external cells from the penis and therefore is not an option for gender reassignment surgery.
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