bernhard ott

A partly regrown human heart within a bioreactor, which replicates the biological conditions around a normal human heart. Bernhard Jank, MD, Ott Lab, Center for Regenerative Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

A team of scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston made news earlier this month when they published research in the journal Biomaterials describing how they’d created the world’s first bioartificial limb in the laboratory.

Or, in other words: scientists have now grown the entire forelimb of a rat in a lab.

Dr. Harold Ott, head of the Ott Laboratory for Organ Engineering and Regeneration,and his team were able to “engineer rat forelimbs with functioning vascular and muscle tissue,” according to the hospital.

The scientists used a process called decellularization. They removed the living tissue from an existing rat limb, leaving just a “framework” — made of things like proteins — behind. Then they re-populated that “scaffolding” with new, living cells.

This may be an important first step leading to the eventual creation of functional, bioartificial limbs that could be used in transplants. That could be a step up from existing prosthetic devices.

In Massachusetts Lab, Scientists Grow An Artificial Rat Limb

Photo: Bernhard Jank, MD/Ott Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine