It might sound like a sophomoric joke, but a scientific development could provide hope for hundreds of men who have suffered penile cancer or traumatic injuries.
That’s right, penises grown in laboratories could soon be a reality. Researchers in North Carolina say lab-grown penises will “soon be ready for human testing.”
Last year, Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine told the Guardian that he and his team of researchers are aiming to begin human testing for organ transplantation within the next five years.
Currently, those who have undergone penile cancer, genital trauma, and congenital abnormalities have their penises reconstructed using flesh from the thigh or forearm. The lab-grown penises use a man’s own “penis-specific” cells to create the new transplant, so the operation would not be suitable to gender reassignment surgeries.
In the past, the university has developed and implanted the first human bladder, urethra, and even vagina. Reconstructing penile tissue, however, has proven especially difficult due to the tissue’s unique structure and diverse functions.
“In order to avoid a high risk of immunological rejection after organ transplantation from another individual, penises would be grown using a patient’s own cells,” said Atala. “These cells would be taken from the remainder of the patient’s penis and grown in a lab for four to six weeks.”