Anthony Atala, MD

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Regenerative Medicine is really a technique, a science that really tries to harness the power that we all have as humans to regenerate ourselves. So, we are constantly regenerating, we are turning our skin every few weeks. So, regenerative medicine really says, OK, we know the organ can regenerate, how can we maximize that when there is injury?

When there is disease? When organs fail? Regenerative Medicine really has its roots all the way back to the 1930s. In fact, there is a textbook that was published back in 1938 out. The culture of organs, and so this concept of having these organs when others failed. And actually creating structures that you can keep a life and in-plant, has been there for a long time.

As a pediatric surgeon I take care of bladder disorders, and so we were dealing with babies who  needed to have their bladders replaced, or repaired. We started on this work, and we real had absolutely no idea how complexity would real be. The fact is we real didn't even have a method where we could actual get this cells to grow outside the body.

So we have many challenges along the way, trying to get these cells to grow, try to create three dimensional materials that would [xx] together and really trying to grow the organ from the ground up. So, by using the patient's own cells, we're able to grow these cells outside the body body to create these new tissue organs and put back into a very same patient, so there are no issue with rejection.

Probably the one thing which was the biggest hurdle that we had to overcome was to be able to grow all these cell types outside the body to make sure they were normal and to make that they would function. Well, you know it took us a long time to actually get to the point where we could finally say, OK, we are now ready to put this into patients.

 And of course that's always a very, very nervous experience, I must say because you're, as much just you do the work in the laboratory, and you do this experimental work before hand you never really know what's going to happen? So you finally put into the patient, we initially report on seven young patients so we actually have several protocols that we use.

 So we change the protocols along the way so we learned from our experience.  We kept making it better and better and thankfully, we were able to achieve good results, and I had the pleasure of meeting up again with some of these patients years later.  And we still stay in touch with them.