From agriculture to building dams, humanity has always tried to bend nature to its advantage. With stem cells and genetic engineering, we’ve reached a totally new level of control. As we speak, researchers are pushing the boundaries of science and making science fiction, science fact. They’re able to grow the strangest things in a lab that, frankly, doesn’t seem like they should be possible. Yet, by opening up the possibility, many patients with illnesses and disabilities may have a second chance in the future. But, maybe that’ll cause more problems than it’s worth? Get ready to go into uncharted territory! Here are 25 Strangest Things Growing In A Lab.
Plastic Eating Bacteria
Researchers in Japan discovered a bacteria that can eat plastic, more specifically polyethylene terephthalate, which is one of the most abundant on Earth. They’re hopeful they and other scientists can continue to grow this bacteria and use it to reduce plastic waste.
Blood Stem Cell
In 2017, scientists successfully grew the stem cells needed to produce blood. By being able to grow and produce blood, doctors could treat diseases like leukemia and be able to have enough blood for transfusions.
Usually, leather is made from cowhide. However, a company called Modern Meadow announced they are growing leather in their lab without cows at all. They grow a strain of yeast that produces collagen, which is essentially what gives leather its tough and elastic quality.
In 1954, Soviet scientist Vladimir Demikhov and his associates performed 23 surgeries to transplant a dog’s head onto another dog, virtually creating a two-headed dog. In 1959, they were “successful” in keeping both dogs alive and attached to each other. The two-headed dog only lived for four more days. While ethically and morally these surgeries were sketchy, they do open the doors to life-saving possibilities in the future.
Researchers have been growing mammary glands in a petri dish to conduct breast cancer research. They take cultured breast cells and grow their own in a transparent gel. Out of the research, they’ve uncovered that mammary gland growth is exploited by tumor progression.
Mouse Growing a Human Ear
At the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University, scientists have successfully grown an adult-sized ear on the back of a mouse. They were able to do it using stem cells and hope they can begin human trials in five years.
Researchers at Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden were able to grow a human trachea from stem cells. But, on top of that, they transplanted it into a cancer patient who had a tumor blocking his airway.
Harald Ott of Massachusetts General Hospital was successfully able to grow a rat limb from living cells. He’s using it as a model for future tests. They believe a primate’s arm could be next, which could mean amputees could theoretically get a replacement arm in the future.
You’d think the last thing we’d want is more mosquitoes. But in this case, the United States approved of mosquitoes grown in a lab specifically designed to carry a bacteria that kills other mosquitoes carrying diseases like Zika and dengue.
Scientists at Abertay University in Scotland have discovered a way to grow small beating hearts in their lab. With stem cells, they grew them to a minuscule 0.04 inches (1 mm) to find ways to treat heart hypertrophy.
Diesel Fuel-Making Bacteria
Imagine driving a car powered entirely by E.coli. In 2013, scientists at the University of Exeter found a way to to make diesel fuel from the E.coli bacteria. What’s better is that it’s totally made from the bacteria and not mixed with petroleum products.
Not only has leather been grown in a lab, but clothing material as well. A United Kindom company called Biocouture started developing and growing clothing from basic kitchen ingredients like sugar. These clothes are also fully compostable, so you can throw it in the trash with all the other food scraps.
You might be surprised how many diamonds are grown in a lab, and we’re not talking about cubic zirconia, but diamonds made of the same chemical properties as diamonds grown naturally. These diamonds are just grown in a lab instead. Many of them have made it to the shelves of several popular diamond jewelers.
Scientists at the University of Michigan were able to grow a pig’s bone from cells in a lab. They then used it to restore a jaw bone. If the research continues, the hope is to the same for humans.
Researchers have been trying to develop edible lab-grown meat since 2008 and finally achieved the goal in 2013. Taking stem cells from a cow’s shoulder, they used 20,000 cells and grew them into a single patty. The meat was served to futurist Hanni Rützler and Josh Schonwald, author of The Taste of Tomorrow.
Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan were able to grow skin tissue with hair follicles and sebaceous glands in their lab. Afterward, they were successfully able to transplant it to mice. Of course, this development could help burn patients or other patients needing new skin.
Despite the odds, researchers were successful in creating a human-pig embryo for the first time. The embryo was .001% human. Scientists did it with the injection of stem cells into a pig embryo.
Apples are a staple of many American homes, but no one would think they could become human ears. Except, of course, Biophysicist Andrew Pelling. Researching at the University of Ottawa, he and his team found out a way to grow human cells by biohacking an apple. They made ears with it and successfully tested it on a mouse.
Using the cells of rabbits, researchers have been able to grow rabbit penises and then transplant them on to rabbits. Being a pediatric urologist, Dr. Anthony Atala has years of specialization in the area and decided to focus on the penis to help babies born with defects.
Scientists at Nanjing Medical University in China have been able to change mice stem cells into sperm cells, raising hopes for curing male infertility.
Researchers have come up with a way to grow coral in a test tube by collecting sex cells from the island of Curaçao. Over the past three decades, coral has seen a significant decline. In the Caribbean reefs, coral has declined by 80%.
Scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine took cells from malfunctioning bladders of seven children and used them to grow thin sacs of tissue. Afterward, they grafted the artificial organs on to patients bladders.
In 2014, researchers were able to take the cells of 4 female patients and grow vaginas from them to help treat a birth defect where the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped. The researchers successfully transplanted the vaginas and after a follow up, no problems or abnormalities were reported.
Scientists were also able to grow human eggs to total maturity in a lab, meaning they technically could be fertilized. They’re hopeful this research will help with infertility.
If things haven’t gotten weird enough, get ready for them to get a whole lot weirder. Researchers have now begun growing tiny balls of human brain tissue. They’re only about .157 inches (4 mm) in diameter. Those studying these pieces of tissue are hopeful it’ll lead to a better understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s.