Advancements in bioengineering by Anthony Atala of a North Carolina University seeks to successfully reproduce safe and functioning human penis.
Over 20 years of research lead Atala and fellow researchers at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine to successfully grow human penises in a laboratory to one day be able to meet a real need for humans who may have lost their penis due to trauma and/or defect.
Atala says “At present, the only treatment option for these men is to have a penis constructed with skin and muscle from their thigh or forearm. Sexual function can be restored with a penile prosthetic placed inside (however) The aesthetics are crude and penetration is awkward.”
The success of Atala and his team has excited trans* group supporters saying this could dramatically improve the quality of life for female to male trans*.
The process of creating the penises starts with a donor penis which is then soaked in a detergent of enzymes for a couple of weeks to wash away the donor cells.
“You’re left with a mostly collagen scaffold – a skeleton if you like, that looks and feels just like the organ,” explains James Yoo, one of Atala’s collaborators at the institute. “Think of it like a building. If you remove all the furniture and the people, you’re still left with the main structure of the building. Then you replace the tenants with new ones. That’s the whole idea. It’s just that the building is a penis and the tenants are cells.”
“The next step is to reseed the structure with the patient’s own cells taken in a biopsy from salvageable tissue and grown in culture. Smooth muscle cells, which relax during an erection to allow the vessels to dilate and the penis to fill with blood, are first, followed by endothelial cells which line the interior surface of blood and lymphatic vessels. When ready, the bioengineered penis is ready to be transplanted to the recipient.”
Atala and team have created half a dozen human penises and are currently testing for “safety and effectiveness.”
Article | Tux Hika