Looking to the Future of Regenerating Hollow Organs

Harvard Apparatus
Harvard Apparatus

Welcome back to our last installment on Harvard Apparatus. Today is all about what’s coming next for the patients influenced by the regenerative medicine that is enabled by Harvard Apparatus’ technology.

If they can make a synthetic trachea, why not another organ? Looking into the future, other hollow organs could be coming soon to a laboratory near you. Only a few thousand people a year are diagnosed with tracheal cancer or trauma, but the technology can be used in the future for other organs that impact more people. Once creating a synthetic trachea has been mastered scientists can look to other hollow organs, like the esophagus.

There are approximately twenty times more patients every year diagnosed with esophageal cancer compared to tracheal cancer. However, like tracheal cancer, esophageal cancer has a high fatality rate due to late diagnosis and thus limited ability to remove the tumors once identified. Unlike the trachea however, the esophagus contracts and expands very often. To date, there are no synthetic esophagi created, but basic research is making progress.

When it comes to solid organs, like the heart and the lungs there has only been one large development. At Massachusetts General Hospital Dr. Harold Ott decellularized a rat lung, recellularized it and transplanted it back into a rat. The rat lived for two weeks after the transplant. This was a large breakthrough, but this process is a long way from becoming commercialized.

What about the United States? Are synthetic organ transplants approved? The doctor associated with Harvard Apparatus received approval from the FDA to perform the first US transplant of an artificial trachea. A little girl with tracheal agenesis—the lack of a part or a whole trachea, will receive a brand new artificial trachea. She will be given a second chance at living a normal life. With a clinical trial underway in Russia, and a first in man in the United States set for the future the commercialization of this surgery is more real than ever.

We hope you enjoyed our miniseries on Harvard Apparatus, and hope you stick around for the rest of our series on regenerative medicine. Until next time, tweet at us or comment here about what else you’d like to hear about from us!