With more than 113, 000 people waiting for organ transplants in the U.S., the man known as “The Father of Tissue Engineering” is working feverishly to find a way to produce organs outside of the body for life-saving transplants.
Dr. Joseph Vacanti was at Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center in Peoria Friday as the inaugural speaker for the Dr. Richard Pearl Lectureship series. His biggest message for University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UNICOMP) students, faculty, along with OSF HealthCare medical and Jump Innovation leaders –“There is hope” for being able to solve some of the problems in reconstructive surgery and the shortage of viable organs for transplantation.
Vacanti says medical science has come a long way since his widely-publicized “earmouse” experiment proved tissue can be created outside the human body for transplant. The photo of a mutant mouse with what looks like an implanted ear under the skin was widely circulated on the internet in 1997. Vacanti says it was today’s version of “going viral.”
Dr. Vacanti and his colleagues at the Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication Lab at Massachusetts General have been working since 1997 to create tissue on biodegradable plastics. In addition, researchers are developing vascular networks which are key to improving reconstructive surgery and to eventually creating organs on demand. It hasn't been easy and Vacanti says he reminds new researchers they will fail nine times out of 10.
"So you have to persist and do enough work that statistically you can be successful by only being successful 10 percent of the time so that's sort of the expectation. But it is exciting when you succeed."
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