Ned Shaw

Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake describes a gruesome future for organ transplantation: Pigoons, genetically altered pigs that grow surplus human organs. Though this scenario may never come to pass, it is easy to see why the science of human replacement parts ignites the dystopian imagination: It was not too long ago that Charles Vacanti of the University of Massachusetts and coworkers injected a polymer scaffold seeded with cartilage cells into the back of the mouse and created an eerie-looking, but otherwise intact, mouse with a human ear growing out of its back.1

If today's tissue engineers have their way, transplantable human organs, or organ substitutes, may instead be grown in laboratory bioreactors in the next 20 to 30 years. Engineered skin and cartilage substitutes already are available to patients, and a wide range of engineered human body parts, including teeth, bladders, and blood vessels, are in...

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