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Instead of trying to compensate for failing organs, what if we could readily replace diseased or injured body parts with brand-new versions made in the lab? Researchers working in the field of regenerative medicine have already made amazing progress, creating artificial organs and miniature labs-on-a-chip. The return on investment for this area of research is expected to be dramatic: better understanding of how diseases develop and spread, accurate screens for testing new drugs, and cell-based therapies for diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and many other conditions that affect millions of Americans. NIH researchers have already created miniature “hearts” that beat rhythmically in a culture dish and contain all the different cell types that make up a human heart. Scientists have also developed a lung-on-a-chip. When intermittent suction is applied, the cells in this thumb-sized device flex and stretch rhythmically just as they do in our lungs when we breathe. For individuals with kidney failure, the potential of using their own skin cells to build a new kidney might now be within reach – given years of hard work and the necessary research investment.
Did you know?
Each year, NIH research funding can be expected to generate more than 100 new inventions..
This page last reviewed on February 11, 2020