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Spain takes the lead in organ regeneration

Spain takes the lead in organ regeneration

The world’s first laboratory for the creation of bioartificial organs using adult stem cells was opened in Spain today.

Scientists at the new centre in the Gregorio Marañón hospital in Madrid aim to “regenerate” a heart and transplant it into a human within a five years.

The lab will create a series of artifical “matrices” to regenerate organs like hearts, livers, kidneys and skin, using stem cells from the patient who is going to receive the transplant.

The new lab is part of the SABIO project (Scaffolds and Bioartificial Organs for Transplantation), involving the Gregorio Marañón, Science and Innovation, the University of Minnesota, United States, and the National Transplant Organisation (ONT), which provides the organs that are unsuitable for transplantation (40% of the complete donated), to serve as host organs.

By manufacturing the organs “to order” using cells from the recipient patient, scientists hope to overcome the problem of transplanted organs being rejected by recipient patients, thereby solving a “major health problem”, i.e. the scarcity of donor organs for transplantation and the number of transplant failures due to organ rejection.

Francisco Fernández-Avilés, head of cardiology at the Gregorio Marañon, explained that the procedure for making new organs consists in eliminating all the cell content, to give a three-dimensional matrix. Afterwards, stem cells from the recipient are implanted into the matrix, which then induces and controls the cell growth, distribution and specialisation, making the organ work again.

The process has already been tested on small animals, as was explained by the director of the Center for Cardiac Repair at the University of Minnesota, Doris Taylor, who has managed to eliminate all the cell content from the heart of a dead mouse, “repopulate” it with adult stem cells, to produce a new organ with all its structures, capable of producing an effective heartbeat.

600,000 euros has been invested in this new laboratory, whose scientists have already prepared eight hearts by eliminating all the cell content to create working “matrices”.  It is hoped that part of one of these “matrices” will produce a heartbeat by the end of the year.

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