20 June 2015
Researchers have created a rat’s front leg – with working blood vessels and muscles – in the lab. To build the limb, the research team stripped all the living cells from the front legs of dead rats using a detergent solution in a way that preserved the limb’s structure, like a leg-shaped scaffold. Meanwhile, they grew muscle and blood vessel stem cells in culture, which they later injected into the cell-free rat limb, as shown here. When electrically stimulated, the limb’s muscles contracted with 80 per cent of the strength seen in newborn rats. Transplanted into live animals, the limb’s blood vessels quickly filled with blood that continued to circulate. Using a baboon’s arm, the researchers showed that the same approach could be applied to primates and suggest that these bioengineered limbs could one day be used for transplantation in humans.
Written by Nick Kennedy