Scientists have some great news for anyone who's pet rodent has lost a limb, revealing an entirely lab-grown rat arm ready for stitching on to any rats who may have been harmed in industrial accidents.
A team at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston grew the spare rat limb. Team member Harald Ott said: "We're focusing on the forearm and hand to use it as a model system and proof of principle. But the techniques would apply equally to legs, arms and other extremities."
Ott refers to the growth as a biolimb, a full replacement made using cells from the recipient. The fact that it's effectively grown to order means there's no chance of it being rejected by its new owner/wearer, although it's not quite as simple a process as whacking a few cells in a dish, adding some magic medicine 4 and waiting for the arm to appear.
It's based around the decellularisation and recellularisation processes that have been successfully used to make simple structures like windpipes before, where the cells from a donor are bleached out of the structure of the original body piece, leaving a framework where rebuilding and regrowth with new cells from the recipient can begin.
There's still a lot of research to be done, but it appears that new bodies for the super-rich made by harvesting and repurposing the corpses of the poor could be on the private medicine procedure list within a few decades. [New Scientist]