Atala’s lab in 2006 made the first full organ ever grown and implanted into a human – the bladder – and the rabbit penises were the first solid organs. A new bid from AFIRM caught his eye. It called for experts in rebuilding the lower abdomen, the genitals, the pelvic area and the bladder.
These injuries are among the least talked-about but among the most horrible affecting war veterans. The improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, planted by insurgents across Iraq and Afghanistan blow off feet, legs and arms, and they can especially damage the pelvic areas that are difficult to protect with body armor.
Atala’s lab is also working to make kidneys, muscle implants, and even to find ways to get fingers to regenerate on their own. (It has to do with waking up some very powerful DNA that goes to sleep soon after a fetus develops). AFIRM’s mission is to align labs like Atala’s with others around the country, getting them to collaborate on projects rather than compete. AFIRM currently funds around 50 research labs, including leaders such as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Rutgers University, the Cleveland Clinic and Rice University.