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.
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