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Laboratory-grown penises will be available in five years, say researchers

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No snark here, dear readers: We sincerely hope you never lose a body part, especially not a reproductive organ. In the event that do you suffer a terrible accident, or if you were born with some kind of abnormality, there's a team of researchers dedicated to making sure patients not only recover these organs, but go on to live normal lives. That group comes from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where scientists are not only working on lab-grown vaginas, but also testing laboratory-made penises. If all goes according to plan, they should be ready for use in about five years.

That's an optimistic claim, that it could take just five years for this technique to reach real-world patients. Incredibly enough, too, the scientists' research is based on studies of rabbits, of all things. In their trials, the researchers cleansed the donor penis in detergent to remove all the living cells, leaving behind a collagen frame where scientists then seed penile cells harvested from the patient himself. These include smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells, which are necessary for erectile function. The entire process took several weeks, but in tests, the rabbits who received transplants were later able to mate and even reproduce. Now, after years of testing, the team is ready to try this procedure on humans.

If successful, this would mean a higher quality of life for men unfortunate to be born with an abnormal penis, or to suffer a catastrophic injury. As Vice notes, penile replacement surgeries currently involve encasing a prosthetic with skin taken from the patient's arm or thigh. Only with this new procedure would men be able to regain erectile function. It's worth noting, however, that precisely because this method requires the use of the patient's own penile cells, it won't be of use to transgender female-to-male patients hoping to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Image credit: UIG via Getty Images

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