Nanoscaffolding regrows limbs, organs

By using ultra-fine polymer fibers, military researchers have been able to regrow damaged or missing organs and limbs. They will announce their findings officially next month at the 26th Army Science Conference in Florida.

One example given by John Parmentola, a director of research and lab management, involved a man who lost the entire tip of his finger while starting up a model airplane.

“That has been completely regrown . . . the nail, the bone, the tissue,” he said.

“There is one example of a young girl who . . . was born without a sex organ, and that was regrown,” he said.

The polymers act as a trellis for new cells which climb up and through the fine scaffolding. Once the organ is regrown, the scaffold is absorbed into the body and disappears.

The process cannot yet regrow complex organs like hearts but it can create skin, bone, and nails. In 2006, nanoscaffolding was used to regrow burned skin and it was discovered that skin cells will “sort themselves” into the right arrangement if given a proper foothold. Work is also being done to use the methods to repair nerve damage and spinal injuries.