Anthony Atala

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Anthony Atala
Anthony Atala, Printing a Human Kidney on Stage (5507356887).jpg
Atala on stage at TED 2011.
Born (1958-07-14) July 14, 1958 (age 60)
Alma materUniversity of Miami (BS)
University of Louisville (MD)
OccupationProfessor 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., (born July 14, 1958) 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".[2]


Atala was born in Peru[3] and raised in Coral Gables, Florida.[2] Atala attended the University of Miami, and he has an undergraduate degree in psychology.[4] He attended medical school at the University of Louisville, where he also completed his residency in urology.[5] He was a fellow at the Harvard Medical School–affiliated Boston Children's Hospital from 1990 to 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 Boston Children's Hospital.[6] His work there involved growing human tissues and organs to replace those damaged by disease or defect. This work became important due to shortages in the organ-donor program.[7]

Atala continued his work in tissue engineering and printable organs[8] after moving to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the Wake Forest School of Medicine in 2004.[9] Atala led the team that developed the first lab-grown organ (a bladder) to be implanted into a human.[10][11]

Along with Harvard University researchers, and as described in the journal Nature Biotechnology,[12] Atala 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 problem of tumor formation and the ethical concerns associated with embryonic stem cells.[13]

With respect to the amniotic fluid stem cells ("AFS" cells),[14] Atala has 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. ... 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.[15]

Atala's work was seized on by opponents of the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill[16] (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."[17]

The company Tengion is attempting to commercialize some of Atala's regenerative medicine technologies.[18]

Atala has been widely recognized for his scientific contributions. His faculty website lists awards and citations including:

  • The Christopher Columbus Foundation Award, bestowed on a living American who is currently working on a discovery that will significantly affect society.
  • The World Technology Award in Health and Medicine, presented to individuals achieving significant, lasting progress.
  • The Samuel D. Gross Prize, awarded every five years to a national leading surgical researcher by the Philadelphia Academy of Surgery.
  • The Barringer Medal from the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons.
  • The Gold Cystoscope award from the American Urological Association for advances in the field.
  • The American Ingenuity Award for Life Sciences, awarded by Smithsonian Magazine (2016).[19]

In 2011, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He was named by Scientific American as a Medical Treatments Leader of the Year for his contributions to the fields of cell, tissue, and organ regeneration. Dr. Atala's work was listed as one of Time Magazine's top ten medical breakthroughs of the year, and as Discover Magazine's top science story of the year in the field of medicine in 2007.[20]

He serves on the editorial board of the scientific journal Rejuvenation Research[21] and on the national board of advisors for High Point University.[22]


  1. ^ "Anthony Atala, MD, Professor and Director - WFIRM". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Scientist at Work: Anthony Atala. A Tissue Engineer Sows Cells and Grows Organs". Archived from the original on 25 May 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  3. ^ Parson, Ann (11 July 2006). "A Tissue Engineer Sows Cells and Grows Organs". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  4. ^ Nash, Leonard (2004). "Anthony Atala Is Pioneering Organic Growth". Miami Magazine. Archived from the original on 30 March 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  5. ^ Svoboda, Elizabeth (December 2006). "The Organ Farmer". Popular Science. 269 (6): 101.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-12-30. Retrieved 2007-01-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Ink-jet printing creates tubes of living tissue". Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  9. ^ "News Releases". Archived from the original on 11 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Lab-grown bladders 'a milestone'". 3 April 2006. Retrieved 28 September 2017 – via
  11. ^ Atala A, Bauer SB, Soker S, Yoo JJ, Retik AB (April 2006). "Tissue-engineered autologous bladders for patients needing cystoplasty". Lancet. 367 (9518): 1241–6. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68438-9. PMID 16631879.
  12. ^ De Coppi, Paolo; Bartsch, Georg; Siddiqui, M Minhaj; Xu, Tao; Santos, Cesar C.; Perin, Laura; Mostoslavsky, Gustavo; Serre, Angéline C.; Snyder, Evan Y.; Yoo, James J.; Furth, Mark E.; Soker, Shay; Atala, Anthony (2007). "Isolation of amniotic stem cell lines with potential for therapy". Nature Biotechnology. 25 (1): 100–106. doi:10.1038/nbt1274. PMID 17206138.
  13. ^ Weiss, Rick (8 January 2007). "Scientists See Potential In Amniotic Stem Cells". Retrieved 28 September 2017 – via
  14. ^ "An Easy Cell - AEI". Archived from the original on 23 August 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  15. ^ "New stem cell source found, say scientists". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2007-01-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ House Resumes Stem Cell Research Debate
  18. ^ Matt Evans, Tengion plans IPO around Atala's groundbreaking work, The Business Journal (February 15, 2010)
  19. ^ "2016 American Ingenuity Award Winners". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  20. ^ "Anthony Atala, MD, Director and Chair". Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  21. ^ "Rejuvenation Research. Editorial Board". Mary Ann Liebert. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  22. ^ "High Point University National Board of Advisors".

External links[edit]

Peer-reviewed journals