“Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine could be offering new hope to men with genital abnormalities or injuries in as little as five years, thanks to one of their many tissue engineering endeavors: lab-grown penises.
“While that may sound a little far-out, these guys are among the world leaders in regenerative medicine and they’ve achieved some remarkable things in the past. Back in 1999, they became the first in the world to successfully implant a lab-grown organ into humans—a bladder. Since then, they’ve transplanted engineered vaginas into women born with defects or without vaginas entirely, and have started working on growing tissues and organs for more than 30 different areas of the body.
“Team leader Anthony Atala began this genital journey back in 1992, but it was not until 2008 that the scientists proved transplanting engineered penises was theoretically possible. Having spent a considerable amount of time working out the best way to engineer these tricky organs, the team managed to grow 12 functioning penises for rabbit subjects. After grafting them on to the recipients, all tried to mate with a female, eight successfully ejaculated, and four produced offspring. While these results were certainly encouraging, gaining approval for human trials is another kettle of fish. However, Atala is confident that it could be granted by the FDA within five years if they can prove the technique is safe.”