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Biotech Medicine Science

The Mass Production of Living Tissue 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the syfy-has-already-bought-movie-rights dept.
An anonymous reader sends in this moderately disturbing quote from Gizmodo: "I'm touching a wet slab of protein, what feels like a paper-thin slice of bologna. It's supple, slimy, but unlike meat, if you were to slice it down the center today, tomorrow the wound would heal. It's factory-grown living tissue. The company behind the living, petri-dish-grown substance known as Apligraf hates my new name for it: meat band-aid. 'It's living,' Dr. Damien Bates, Chief Medical Officer at Organogenesis, corrects me. 'Meat isn't living.' But no one argues with me that this substance is really just a band-aid. A living, $1500 band-aid, I should say. Apligraf is a matrix of cow collagen, human fibroblasts and keratinocyte stem cells (from discarded circumcisions), that, when applied to chronic wounds (particularly nasty problems like diabetic sores), can seed healing and regeneration. But Organogenesis is not interested in creating boutique organs for proof of concept scientific advancement. They're a business in the business of mass tissue manufacturing — and the first of its kind."
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The Mass Production of Living Tissue

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  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:23PM (#30098762) Homepage Journal
    Many a SciFi story I've read has used this kind of thing for wounds. I wonder how soon until they have it to the point where these slices are vacuum packed and you can open it and stuff it into a wound in the field?
    • by TheMeuge (645043) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:42PM (#30098974)

      Many a SciFi story I've read has used this kind of thing for wounds. I wonder how soon until they have it to the point where these slices are vacuum packed and you can open it and stuff it into a wound in the field?

      A little while.

      There are two main approaches to using non-autologous grafting approaches. One is the matrix approach, where the material grafted is not tissue per se, but rather an organic matrix that is suitable for colonization by the autologous tissues and provides an environment conducive to growth. Such matrices are already being used in fields of orthopedic surgery and surgical dentistry to cause bone growth.

      The second approach, which appears to be this company's goal, is to create graftable tissues in-vitro. Please note that this isn't really a new idea, since ex-vivo grown "skin" has been available for at least a couple of years now. While the method described in TFA is potentially both more effective and has a wider range of use, it seems to me that it would likely require careful surgical grafting in order to supply the graft with blood vessels, so it's unlikely that we'd be able to just stuff it into the wound right away.

      However, given how quickly our knowledge of the mechanisms of angiogenesis (blood vessel growth and proliferation) has expanded in the last decade due to the research into tumor progression, I can envision that in the relatively near future we would be able to embed sufficient angiogenesis-mediating factors into the ex-vivo grown tissues that under.

    • Cannibalism (Score:4, Funny)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @01:13PM (#30099252) Journal
      Sounds really promising for those who want to be cannibals. Just grow it using samples from your tastier friends (or from yourself, for the ultimate: survivable self-cannibalism). The price might have to come down a little, of course, or it will remain an expensive delicacy.
    • I wonder when this thing will be included in a kit with a tendon stapler (of Johnny Mnemoic fame).

    • by aplusjimages (939458) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:18PM (#30099866) Journal
      hopefully that time will come soon and I imagine they would call it a "health pack" and put a big red cross on the cover of the box. Putting it on walls and inside crates would be very helpful.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      I wonder how soon until they have it to the point where these slices are vacuum packed and you can open it and stuff it into a sandwich.

    • by LoRdTAW (99712)

      I wonder how soon until they have it to the point where these slices are vacuum packed and you can open it and stuff it into a wound in the field?

      Or slather on some mayo and put it on whole wheat for a battle ready meal.

      Arrgh! Sarge! Iv been hit!
      Here solder, take my sandwich!
      (takes bite of sandwich and then mushes it onto wound)
      Thanks sir! That was delicious!

      Oscar Mayer should look into this.

  • by markov_chain (202465) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:23PM (#30098766) Homepage

    So when you rub your scars you induce swelling!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So when you rub your scars you induce swelling!

      I think we've only seen the tip of the iceberg in regards to this technology's potential.

  • Yes but... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    how does it taste?

    • by Zarniwoop (25791) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:47PM (#30099026)

      Pretty good with mustard, mayo and american cheese on white bread.

    • Re:Yes but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Onymous Coward (97719) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @01:06PM (#30099188) Homepage

      In vitro meat will be the confounding of dogmatic, righteous vegans everywhere.

      For the more reasonable vegans it'll be that long-lost opportunity to finally eat some goddamned bacon again. Mm... I love the piggies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I was kind of thinking that. Obviously wound treatment is the first market for this kind of thing, but it will surely be used for food production sooner or later -- basically, as soon as the cost of a pound of lab-grown beef falls below the cost of a pound grown the old-fashioned way as part of a cow. I suspect that will be a while yet, but it seems inevitable. At which point we will see food wars like nothing we've seen yet. You think people get passionate about genetically engineered plants? Heh.

      • Re:Yes but... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eddy the lip (20794) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @02:44PM (#30100092)

        I knew this post would elicit a comment like this, so much obliged. (First, a minor quibble - I think you mean "vegetarians", rather than "vegans." The latter not only don't eat meat, but any animal byproduct, eg. dairy.)

        As you implicitly acknowledge, there are a lot of different types of vegetarians and vegans, who have chosen to omit certain things from their diet for various reasons. A vegetarian who is one for health reasons won't be terribly interested in eating meat, regardless of it's origins.

        There are other arguments for vegetarianism, of course. Sustainability is one (although this would imply more that we should eat far less meat, from animals raised in ways that are environmentally friendly and don't negatively impact our ability to produce other foods.) The level of cruelty involved in factory farming, which is required to sustain our voracious appetite for meat is another, but this has the same caveats. I've known organic farmers that take better care of their animals than some do their children.

        The one that seems to cause meat eaters the biggest problem is ethics. Is it defensible that we take life away from other sentient creatures for our own pleasure simply because our sentience is more highly evolved? I became a vegetarian for health reasons, but after dissociating myself from a meat diet and no longer needing to justify it, this question become easier to contemplate. I cannot in good conscience cause pain and take away the life from another living creature when I don't need to for my own survival. I consider us fortunate that we have this option, that we do not need to cause harm to continue to exist.

        (Douglas Hofstadter expounds on this quite eloquently:

        At some point, in any case, my compassion for other “beings” led me very naturally to finding it unacceptable to destroy other sentient beings (or other hallucinations, if you prefer), such as cows and pigs and lambs and fish and chickens, in order to consume their flesh, even if I knew that their (hallucinated) sentience wasn't quite as high as the (hallucinated) sentience of human beings.

        http://tal.forum2.org/hofstadter_interview [forum2.org]

        )

        For myself, I am looking forward to the day when we find vat grown meat at our grocers, and fervently hope that one day this will supplant "naturally grown" meat. I believe that most vegetarians would agree, and not have a particular problem with people consuming non-sentient cell tissue.

        As an aside, I was recently at a friend's place, and we were making caesar salad, hers with bacon, mine without. In the interest of science, I tasted a piece. It was the single most revolting flavour I've ever tasted, something like carrion. You do lose your taste for meat over time, and there are many vegetarians that really don't miss the nasty things you meat eaters put into your bodies ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Onymous Coward (97719)

          A correction to your quibble, pardon me:

          A vegetarian who is one for health reasons won't be terribly interested in eating meat, regardless of it's origins.

          That's one impetus for vegetarianism, as you say. So I don't mean this kind of vegetarian. And the foundation of veganism is not anti-meat, it's anti-animal suffering, so I do mean vegan. ("[T]he word 'veganism' denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude -- as far as is possible and practical -- all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals...") And this is also why I say it'll be the confounding of dogmatic vegans. Because dogma dictat

          • Point taken - I'm going to go check up on the semantics of "veganism" as soon as I'm done posting, so cheers!

            The zealous, dogmatic types bug the heck out of me, too. I've known more than a few and it's sooo hard not to poke at them. Just too much fun to be had. (Not to mention that I don't think they do their cause any favours by being so unpleasant.)

            I would agree, too, that a creature existing in perpetual suffering deserves to be relieved from it. (Queue someone to jump in with some silly slippery-slope a

            • Magical pig?

              Make it go fast?

              • Heh. Obligatory Simpson's reference:

                Lisa: I'm going to become a vegetarian

                Homer: Does that mean you're not going to eat any pork?

                Lisa: Yes

                Home: Bacon?

                Lisa: Yes Dad

                Homer: Ham?

                Lisa: Dad all those meats come from the same animal!

                Homer: Right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!

          • by lennier (44736)

            "I would annihilate it because I care."

            That would look good on an emo-industrial T-shirt.

            But as a guide to ethical living? Not sure I'd really want to go there. You saw Season 6 Buffy right?

        • You've given me a lot to think about. I'll have to think about your comments over a cheeseburger and shake.

          Veggies aren't really food -- they're what food eats. You guys will be delicious when we run out of cows.
  • By 2012... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...this tech will finally deliver fully realized COTS pornstar-branded vaginas. At which point the world will end.

  • by earlymon (1116185) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:36PM (#30098914) Homepage Journal

    This sounds like incredibly great news for burn victims, given development.

  • by rapturizer (733607) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:36PM (#30098918)
    This sounds highly promising for traditionally traumatic and fatal wounds, particularly burns. It will be interesting to see if this product increases the rate of survival in burn victims and other similar traumas. You have to love modern medicine.
    • This sounds highly promising for traditionally traumatic and fatal wounds, particularly burns. It will be interesting to see if this product increases the rate of survival in burn victims and other similar traumas. You have to love modern medicine.

      Welcome to the future. Almost everything that was once 'science fiction' is becoming plausable and even probable in science.

      Even 20 years ago we could never have dreamed what we are doing now and will be doing in the next 20-30 years!

  • Literature much? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Orleron (835910)
    I don't get why this is news. This company and this product have been around for like 20 years.
    • I was wondering the same thing. Maybe this company has managed to comercialise some aspect of mammalian cell culture, but the technology has been around for decades now. The principles aren't exactly hard to grasp; it was pretty much expected that by the 3rd year of my degree in biotechnology we should all have a solid understanding of this.

      However, introducing cells thus cultured in vitro to a living patient is probably the more difficult part, and I'm not entirely sure that much has changed in this reg
    • their product has been used on a 1/4 million people so it isn't new.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:45PM (#30099014) Journal

    Soylent Green is Wankers!

  • SOYLENT (Score:4, Funny)

    by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:47PM (#30099036)

    Band-Aid®?

  • by drewsup (990717) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @12:52PM (#30099066)
    The hospital in question was using disused foreskin to create eyelids for burn victims. Alas, they all turned out to be cock-eyed after the procedure!
  • Chopping up virgins' bits and pieces and turning it into a medical treatment!

    Human horn is real!

  • It's supple, slimy, but unlike meat

    Now, is this the new protein or the bologna?

  • Apligraf is a matrix of cow collagen, human fibroblasts and keratinocyte stem cells (from discarded circumcisions)

    I expected them to follow that list up with 'and a few other things'.

    Screw 'meat bandaid', call it 'hotdog bandaid' instead.

  • by az-saguaro (1231754) on Saturday November 14, 2009 @01:27PM (#30099390)

    I am not sure why this item was introduced as "moderately disturbing". If you will permit me, I will explain what it is, since I use it regularly. (I have no stock nor other biased affiliation with the company or product.) The product first came on the market in 1998, over 10 years ago. It has a well-established place in the treatment of chronic wounds. It is not the only product in the category of "living cell therapies" for chronic wounds. The other product is Dermagraft, similar, and likewise around for nearly 10 years. When Apligraf first came out, it was promoted as skin-graft-in-a-box. It is not. It is allogeneic material (recipients will reject it), and thus it does not "take" to the body like an autogenous skin graft. In its earliest years, when the company was promoting it as a skin graft, it got some high profile press because it was put to good use as readily available biological coverage for burn victims of the 9-11-2001 twin towers catastrophe. The company that makes it, Organogenesis, partnered with pharma giant Novartis for marketing and product management, and under them, they listened to customers who told them it was not skin grafts in a box, and they redefined its marketing for chronic wounds. The product management has been back in the hands of Organogenesis for about 3 or 4 years now.

    The material is essentially a poly-pharmaceutical packaged in a living material. The raw materials come from donated foreskins. Extensive safety testing is done. Pure extracted fibroblasts are put into cell culture, where they do their business and re-form a collagen matrix equivalent to normal dermis. After that, pure keratinocytes are cultured on top of the dermis, and an epidermis forms. The product is shipped in its petri dish, as a circle of 44 sq cm area. The Gizmodo article shows a picture of it. As a living material, its procurement and handling are a bit different than most medical devices, but it is easy to get and apply.

    The juvenile cells in the material make a broad spectrum of growth factors and other biochemicals which have a positive pro-proliferative effect on wounds. The role for this material is for chronic and pathological wounds. The company got its market approval and indications from the FDA for studies done on diabetic and venous ulcers, but the material is useful for chronic and pathological ("cap") wounds of any cause. Like anything else, it does not work for all wounds or patients, but it is fairly predictable, and its results can be rather dramatic. When a cap wound of whatever cause has been treated to the point that disease is quiet, inflammation is gone, and the wound should be healing but it is not, then that is when wound stimulatory therapies are applied. There are several available, and Apligraf has been one of the flagship products in this category for 10 years now. Many wounds which simply will not budge no matter what will take off and heal once this is applied.

    Organogenesis has its first new product coming out soon, for oral mucosa and gingiva, so perhaps that is why they are trying to stir up some attention with articles like the one quoted. However, it is not Brave New World nor Coma nor any other meat factory. It is just on the leading edge of biological therapeutics in the 21st century. And if Slashdotters want to make lots of jokes as they often do, like "put Viagra in the petri dish to grow more", well, we've already heard them all.

    (All very timely, since I just gave a presentation on this last week (and have been for 8 years). If you want to learn more, I posted a copy of the presentation on the website I use for posting talks and presentations and whatnot. This particular talk has a mix of my slides and company slides. It is NOT yet annotated with full text on each slide, so some will just be pictures and you will have to infer what you can, but text should be coming one of these days:
    http://www.arimedica.com/content/arimedica_apligraf_(partially%20annotated)_2005-1006.pdf [arimedica.com]
    Again, I have no investment nor bias here, I just use this stuff in practice because it works and it's an important product.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jeremi (14640)

      I am not sure why this item was introduced as "moderately disturbing". [...] The material is essentially a poly-pharmaceutical packaged in a living material. The raw materials come from donated foreskins.

      Heh, I believe you have your answer.

  • Somehow I was reminded of this story:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8360569.stm [bbc.co.uk]

  • Apligraf is a matrix of cow collagen, human fibroblasts and keratinocyte stem cells (from discarded circumcisions), that, when applied to chronic wounds (particularly nasty problems like diabetic sores), can seed healing and regeneration.

    Finally, a band-aid made out of human penises!

    Can't believe I didn't think of it.

  • They should trademark it as "4Skin".

  • Donated? Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hg1954 (1678762)
    Engineered skin products may well be great products with many uses. But there's a serious ethical problem with using foreskins taken from, not donated by, non-consenting minors.

    So what's the big deal, boys are going to be circumcised anyway, why not profit from it?

    It's the profit motive that's the problem.

    Parents report being pressured by hospital staff to circumcise their newborn sons. In fact, the anti-circumcision organization IntactAmerica.org was originally funded by couple in response to their disg

    • So can all the guys who have been amputated via Circumcision be regarded as amputees?

      Maybe the idea of a prosthetic penis is not to far away, maybe a detachable one at that...... Just don't loose it.

      I was gong to make a joke about amputee pr0n, because now most all pr0n with males in can be classified as Amputee pr0n.....\\

    • by LanMan04 (790429)

      No one pressured me to circumcise my son, my wife and I made the choice long before we went to the hospital. And it was done with a local, so almost pain-free.

      I also wasn't given the option to donate it, which I would have done if I had known about this.

  • Because if they can grow spines and hearts then they are desperately needed in Washington D.C. stat!

  • "Solyent Green is Foreskins! Solyent Green is discarded Foreskins! No. Really. They collect them for the keratinocyte stem cells. It's all quite safe."

    Doesn't have quite the same punch, but at least it's corrected for accuracy.

  • Can this be the start of the price of hamburger going way down? Meat without need for the cow, the chicken, or the turkey could be a boon to the entire world. It could also give us a use for all the abandoned factory space in America. Now if they can grow nice leather I could use some new upholstery.

  • You idiot, that's not the band-aid... that's the lunch meat!!!

    Then what the hell did we have for lunch with the soup!!!

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