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1. A Brain with Eyes
Scientists at University Hospital Dusseldorf created organoids composed of neural tissue (i.e. mini-brains) that developed “optic cups”, precursors to the retina. This means that the living brain tissue can sense light. The researchers created 342 mini-brains using stem cells and pre-existing neural tissue, 72% of which sprouted optic cups. This means that, somewhere in Europe, there is literally a laboratory of tiny brains progressively growing eyes for themselves.
2. Beating Mini-Hearts
Similar to the mini-brains being grown by researchers in Dusseldorf, a Vienna-based laboratory has coaxed into existence a batch of mini-hearts, known as cardioids, that beat just like the real Mccoy. The cardioids are roughly the size of a sesame seed and are commensurate with the heart of a 25 day old human embryo.
3. Human Tear Ducts
A team at the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands developed disembodied tear ducts and successfully taught them how to cry. This was accomplished by cloning groups of tear ducts and then bathing them in noradrenaline, the hormone that signals healthy ducts to secrete tears, until they began to swell with fluid. Researchers then stitched these lab-grown into the eyes of mice, because research isn’t fun when the mice can’t cry.
4. A Literal Vagina
Doctors at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine successfully created fully-functioning vaginal implants for four women in the US born with vaginal aplasia, a condition in which the vagina fails to form properly in the womb. Using 3D scans of the real thing, doctors 3D-printed a “scaffolding” on which stem cells and a tissue sample were added before placing them in a bioreactor. All four women received the implant successfully and report full working order.
5. A Literal Penis
The same team from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, after finding success with their lab-grown vaginas, are approaching readiness to begin human testing for lab-grown penises. The process is gnarly; doctors strip a donor penis of all its cells using some sort of f**ked up detergent, leaving behind a collagen “scaffold” and then plant smooth muscle cells (the stuff organs are made of) and endothelial cells (which regulate blood-flow and transmission between blood vessels and surrounding tissues).
6. Functioning Mini-Lungs
Researchers at Duke University, fed up with the distinct lack of experiment-ready human lungs available, have developed mini-lungs (similar to the mini-brain and mini-heart) that almost exactly replicate alveoli, the small air-sacs inside lungs that permit molecular transmission into the bloodstream. These mini-lungs are being used by scientists to study the effects of SARS-CoV-2 without having to borrow anyone’s real lungs.
7. Ears 3D-Printed INSIDE Mice
You might have seen the infamous Vacanti Mouse in the late 90’s-early 2000s, a mouse which had a human ear grown on its back -- this is not that. Researchers at Sichuan University have developed a way to manufacture ears INSIDE mice by injecting them with a “bio-ink” made of hydrogel particles and cartilage cells and then shining ear-shaped light patters onto the injection site. The light encouraged the bio-ink cells to progressively coalesce into an ear-like structure, completely without surgery or a risk of infection.
8. A Spider Goat
Randy Lewis, professor at Utah State University, led a team of researchers in the creation of the world’s first Spider-Goats -- goats that are, literally, part spider. They don’t have eight legs, but they have spider DNA in every single one of their cells and, more importantly, produce spider-silk proteins in their milk that visible and can be collected as the real mccoy. This allows for the industrial production of spider silk, one of nature’s strongest materials and one tougher than Kevlar.
9. A Glowing Dog
Scientists at Seoul National University, led by stem cell researcher Byeong-Chun Lee, successfully created a set of transgenic puppies: beagles which carry a red fluorescent gene from glowing sea anemones. While they otherwise look like normal dogs, the puppies glow brightly under a UV light.
10. Pig Jaws
Researchers at Columbia University managed to solve the complex problem of restoring broken facial bones -- at least in pigs. Typically, to replace a piece of bone in the jaw/face, a surgeon must perform a bone graft by removing a piece from somewhere else on the body (usually the pelvis or ribs), sculpting it into shape, and inserting in the site of the damage. Instead, researchers at columbia were able to grow a block of porous bone-tissue using the pigs’ own cells, have it shaped via 3D scans and a robotic sculpting device, and insert it into place without creating a new injury.
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