Regenerative medicine

Imagine a world where doctors could repair damaged tissues or organs with a patient’s very own cells. Well, one laboratory in North Carolina is working on just that with support from the United States Military. Up next, a look at the groundbreaking signs of regenerative medicine from the PBS documentary film Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield.

TRANSCRIPT

Imagine a world where doctors could repair damaged tissues or organs with a patient's very own cells.

Well, one laboratory in North Carolina is working on just that with support from the United States military.

Up next, a look at the groundbreaking science of regenerative medicine from the PBS documentary film 'Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield.'

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Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in these laboratories at Wake Forest University, scientists have discovered how to grow new human organs and tissues outside the human body.

It's a breakthrough in regenerative medicine.

You know, so, this is a bio-printed ear scaffold that you see here and...

Dr. Anthony Atala, the lab's director, and his teams, are working on more than two dozen bioengineered tissues and organs and building these kidney... ear... and nose-shaped structures.

So, this is actually a 3-D-printed nose scaffold that we would use basically to re-create the shape as we print these structures.

Atala's first scaffold, or framework, was for a human bladder.

We go to the patient, and we take a very small piece of tissue from the deceased or injured organ.

We then grow and expand those cells outside the body.

Once we have enough cells for our construct, we create a three-dimensional mold that is shaped like the organ, and we place this in an incubator which has the same conditions as the human body, let it cook, if you will, and then we take it out and implant it surgically back into the patient.

So far, Atala has successfully implanted 20 regenerated bladders as part of a clinical trial.

Other organs are not advanced enough for a human transplant.

♪♪ To build more complex organs, researchers here are experimented with bio-printing.

Instead of ink, cells from a patient are combined with a biodegradable polymer, making a gel-like substance that is slowly layered until a regenerated tissue or organ, like this simulated piece of jawbone, emerges.

Basically, when we print these structures, we actually are printing both the cells and the materials together.

So then what happens is that the cells themselves start taking over the material.

And as the material goes away -- 'cause these are all resorbable -- then the cells take over and form the new tissue.

The Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, established in 2008, funds much of the research here to find new ways to treat battlefield injuries and perhaps to save lives by reducing the need for organ transplants.

How can we actually generate new skin?

How can we actually make sure that we can cover our wounded warriors that get burns?

All these challenges that appear because of our wounded warriors lead then to studies that aim to replace and regenerate and heal those tissues as much as we can.

To see the full documentary, 'Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield,' visit pbs.org/militarymedicine.