Every two weeks, the lining of your intestine completely regenerates itself. That's why doctors believe intestines are the perfect organ to regrow. A medical breakthrough centered on this fact is helping children born with gastrointestinal defects.
At 18 weeks pregnant, Stacy was told that something was wrong with her son Nathan. He had a rare birth defect that left him with only a few inches of intestines, when a baby at his age would normally have around six to eight feet.
For Nathan, that meant a lifetime of being fed through a tube or getting a transplant. But Dr. Tracy Grikscheit of The Saban Research Institute said she hopes a discovery in her lab can change the prognosis.
"We've been able to show that we can make every part of the gastrointestinal tract. We can make esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon," Dr. Grikscheit said.
After children have surgery, doctors take leftover tissue and grow a new organ in the lab. Dr. Grikscheit said this eliminates the risk of rejection and a lifetime of medication.
"If we were able to make engineered intestine from your own cells, it would be part of you, grow with you. It would self repair," Dr. Grikscheit said.
It's a medical breakthrough that could have patients healing themselves.
Dr. Grikscheit has received a $3.4 million grant to fund her studies. The same approach has the potential to help adults who lose part of their colon to cancer or other bowel diseases.