This Biohacker Is Developing DIY Kits to Grow Human Tissue at Home

The first organ transplant took place more than 60 years ago. Since then, organ transplant and growth technology has made some enormous—and strange—advances. Exhibit A: human tissue grown from ear-shaped apples, an idea from biohacker Andrew Pelling and his team at his Canadian laboratory.

Pelling’s research lab at the University of Ottawa is a playground for creative scientific minds. “We aren’t focused on any particular problem and we’re not trying to solve any particular disease,” he said in a recent TED Talk. “This is just a place where people can come and ask fascinating questions and find answers.”

A frequent question in the Pelling Lab is, “What can we make out of this garbage?”

“I love looking through other people’s garbage,” Pelling said. “It's not some creepy thing. I’m usually just looking for old electronics, stuff I can take to my workshop and hack.”

While hacking electronics, Pelling began to wonder if the same methods—taking something apart, tinkering with the pieces, and building something new—could be applied to, say, plants and animals. “What I'm really curious about is if one day, it will be possible to repair, rebuild, and augment our own bodies with stuff we make in the kitchen,” he said.

He and his team began experimenting with hacking plant tissue. They started with leaves, but found the waxy coating too hard to take apart. One day one of the researchers saw a coworker eating an apple, and something clicked. They turned their attention to fruit instead. Once you get past the apple’s skin, its flesh is unprotected, which makes it easier to remove the material within, in a process called decellularization.

The next step was to implant animal cells into the empty apple "scaffolding" (a term used in tissue engineering for the structure used to facilitate new cells). The cells took to their new habitat and grew quite successfully. Looking at the apple-shaped animal tissue, Pelling realized it might be possible to shape human tissue the same way.

He asked his wife, a skilled carver, to whittle Macintosh apples into ear-shaped slices. The slices were repopulated with human cells, resulting in a pretty successful new ear (or at least human tissue shaped like an ear).

There's more to this than just having fun. "Commercial scaffolds can be really expensive and problematic, because they're sourced from proprietary products, animals, or cadavers," Pelling said in his recent TED Talk. "We used an apple and it cost pennies."

Not one to keep his triumphs to himself, Pelling is determined to make this ear-factory technology available to the public. He has published all the instructions online and will soon start selling the necessary equipment so that people can grow their own body parts at home.

Apple ears are just one sector of the Pelling Lab’s work. For more on the team’s engineering and biohacking projects, check out their website.

Banner images via YouTube // BRich Spare- Tire.

Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed

Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.


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