Earlier this afternoon, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal's Zach Weiner floated an interesting thought: "One day," he mused, "there will actually be a pill that grows your penis six inches."
Far-fetched? Perhaps. But here's something penis-related that isnt: researchers are inching ever-closer to being able to grow fully functioning human genitalia in the lab — and that has serious, near-term implications. For accident victims. For transsexual men. And, yes, for the poorly endowed.
[Dr. Anthony Atala] has already grown bladders using a patient's own cells, and he's made penises that rabbits were able to put to their proper use, fathering litters of new little bunnies. He hopes to use this expertise to help rebuild the bodies of veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as men and boys injured in car accidents.
Atala's lab in 2006 made the first full organ ever grown and implanted into a human – the bladder – and the rabbit penises were the first solid organs. A new bid from AFIRM caught his eye. It called for experts in rebuilding the lower abdomen, the genitals, the pelvic area and the bladder.
These injuries are among the least talked-about but among the most horrible affecting war veterans. The improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, planted by insurgents across Iraq and Afghanistan blow off feet, legs and arms, and they can especially damage the pelvic areas that are difficult to protect with body armor.
Yes, you read that right. We now have functioning, lab-grown penises on rabbits. The future applications of this branch of regenerative medicine are huge, and they extend far beyond therapy for wounded soldiers. Just imagine the options it would open up for transsexual men. It could very well become the next penis-enlargement plastic surgery. A penis pill that boosts your member by half a foot may still be a ways off. But this? This is right around the corner.
Read more about Atala's work, and other research leading the field of regenerative medicine, at MSNBC.