In the next few years, researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine hope to transplant lab-grown penises into people who need them due to congenital abnormalities, disease, or traumatic injury.
The penises are grown from the patient's own cells on a 3D collagen scaffold made from a donor penis. Studies on rabbits "were very encouraging," says tissue engineering pioneer Anthony Atala, director of the Institute. From The Guardian:
Because the method uses a patient's own penis-specific cells, the technology will not be suitable for female-to-male sex reassignment surgery.
"Our target is to get the organs into patients with injuries or congenital abnormalities," said Atala, whose work is funded by the US Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which hopes to use the technology to help soldiers who sustain battlefield injuries.
As a paediatric urological surgeon, Atala began his work in 1992 to help children born with genital abnormalities. Because of a lack of available tissue for reconstructive surgery, baby boys with ambiguous genitalia are often given a sex-change at birth, leading to much psychological anguish in later life. "Imagine being genetically male but living as a woman," he said. "It's a firmly devastating problem that we hope to help with."