Anthony Atala

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Anthony Atala
Anthony Atala, Printing a Human Kidney on Stage (5507356887).jpg
Anthony Atala on stage at TED 2011.
Born 1958
Peru
Occupation Professor and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Chair of the Department of Urology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina

Anthony Atala, M.D., is the W.H. Boyce Professor and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Chair of the Department of Urology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina.[1] Regenerative medicine is "a practice that aims to refurbish diseased or damaged tissue using the body's own healthy cells." [1]

Biography[edit]

Atala was born in Peru in 1958,[2] grew up in Coral Gables, Florida.[1] Atala attended the University of Miami and has an undergraduate degree in Psychology.[2] He went to medical school at the University of Louisville where he also completed his residency in urology. He was a fellow at the Harvard Medical School affiliated Children's Hospital Boston from 1990-1992 where he trained under world renowned pediatric urologic surgeons Alan Retik and Hardy Hendren. He served as the Director of the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Cellular Therapeutics at Children's Hospital Boston.[3] His work there involved growing human tissues and organs to replace those damaged by disease or defects. This work became important because of shortages in the organ-donor program.[4]

Atala continued his work in Tissue engineering and Printable organs[5] after moving to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the School of Medicine in 2004.[6] Atala led the team that developed the first lab-grown organ, a bladder, to be implanted into a human.[7] [8]

Aside from his groundbreaking research, Atala also tends to clinical and administrative responsibilities. He operates regularly and runs a busy clinic, is in charge of a rapidly growing urology department and has successfully recruited other renowned faculty to Wake Forest, such as Gopal Badlani, James Yoo and Gordon McLorie.

Along with Harvard University researchers and as described in the journal Nature Biotechnology[9], he has announced that stem cells with enormous potential can be harvested from the amniotic fluid of pregnant women. These amniotic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they can be manipulated to differentiate into various types of mature cells that make up nerve, muscle, bone, and other tissues while avoiding the problems of tumor formation and ethical concerns that are associated with embryonic stem cells.[10]

With respect to the amniotic fluid stem cells ("AFS" cells)[11], Atala said the following:

"The cells come from the fetus, which breathes and sucks in, then excretes, the amniotic fluid throughout pregnancy;"

"Like embryonic stem cells, they appear to thrive in lab dishes for years, while normal cells, called somatic cells, die after a time ;"

"They are easier to grow than human embryonic stem cells. And, unlike embryonic stem cells, they do not form a type of benign tumour called a teratoma;" and

"A bank with 100,000 specimens of the amniotic stem cells theoretically could supply 99 per cent of the US population with perfect genetic matches for transplants."[12]

Atala's work was seized on by opponents of the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill [13] (a part of the 100-Hour Plan of the Democratic Party in the 110th United States Congress) as a more moral alternative. He wrote a letter saying, inter alia, "Some may be interpreting my research as a substitute for the need to pursue other forms of regenerative medicine therapies, such as those involving embryonic stem cells. I disagree with that assertion." [3]

The company Tengion is attempting to commercialize some of Atala's regenerative medicine technologies.[4]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Peer-reviewed journals