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Scientists Grow New Penile Tissue in the Lab
Date:11/9/2009

Rabbits implanted with new cells regained sexual function, study says,,,,

MONDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers were able to restore sexual function to rabbits with damaged penises by growing new penile tissue in the lab and implanting it, a new study reports.

Though a human application is a ways off, researchers say the technique could one day be used to treat severe erectile dysfunction in men.

"We were able to show the tissue was able to integrate and function in the long term, which means we can start planning clinical applications [in humans]," said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and senior author of the study. "Our hope is to be able to treat patients with many conditions, including congenital abnormalities of the penis, traumatic injuries, penile cancer and severe cases of erectile dysfunction that don't benefit from drug treatments."

The study is published in the Nov. 9 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The penis is a complex organ, with nerve, muscle and vascular cells all needing to work together to achieve and maintain an erection. During an erection, smooth muscle tissue relaxes, allowing blood to flow into the penis. Endothelial cells, which line blood vessels, trigger the process by releasing nitric oxide.

In the study, the researchers extracted smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells from the animals' penises. The cells were then separated and grown in the laboratory on rod-shaped collagen scaffolds for support. The scaffold was placed in an incubator and nourished by fluids to mimic conditions inside the body, Atala said.

After the cells had matured, the scaffolding and the newly formed penile spongy tissue, called corpora cavernosa, was surgically implanted into the rabbits' penises.

About a month later, the tissue b
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