According to a story from BBC, there are only around ten people in the world who are currently living with a replacement bladder that was derived from their own cells. One of these people is Luke Massella. He had to get a bladder replacement due to complications caused by the rare disease spina bifida.
About Spina Bifida
Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the back bone does not fully close around the spinal cord. The area most typically affected is the lower back, but it can also appear along the mid back or neck. There are several different types which vary in their severity. The defect has been linked to a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Some risk factors include family history, folic acid deficiency during the pregnancy, diabetes, obesity, using antiseizure medication, white or hispanic descent, and alcohol consumption. Girls are more susceptible than boys. Symptoms range widely in severity but can include poor walking or inability to walk, abnormal eye movement, leg weakness or paralysis, club foot, scoliosis, skin conditions, poor kidney function, and incontinence. Some patients may have neurological abnormalities or learning disabilities. Treatment typically involves surgery. To learn more about spina bifida, click here.
It is fair to say that Luke has had a more severe case of spina bifida. Doctors told his parents that he would never be able to walk, and by age ten, he had endured several different surgeries. Despite the grim outlook, Luke did eventually gain his ability to walk, but unfortunately complications with his bladder caused kidney failure. Luke faced the unpleasant prospect of having to get dialysis for the rest of his life.
However, surgeons at the Boston’s Children Hospital took a small fragment of bladder tissue from Luke and from it were able to grow a brand new bladder in a lab. In a fourteen hour surgical operation, the new bladder was installed. A big advantage of getting a lab grown bladder is that the patient will not have to worry about rejection, which can be a major concern during conventional transplant surgery.
Luke is 27 years old now, and since then, this remarkable surgery has allowed him to live a more or less normal life.