Lab-grown Esophagus Implanted in Rat

Researchers may have successfully engineered functional esophagi that resist stress, staying open and unobstructed after they were implanted into living rats.

People suffering from esophageal cancer, as well as certain traumas and birth defects, often undergo surgery to remove damaged sections of their esophagus. Many post-surgery options to restore their digestive function exist — such as creating replacement parts from the patient’s own intestine or stomach — but these come with serious complications.

For a way to avoid additional surgeries and reduce side effects, an international team led by Paolo Macchiarini of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm tried to construct a readily available, natural replacement esophagus. While tissue engineering has been used to create bladders, trachea, and blood vessels, several attempts at a replacement esophagus have failed thus far.

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