Surgeon will discuss how to make human organs at next URI Honors Colloquium lecture, Oct. 4

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KINGSTON, R.I. – September 27, 2011- A Wake Forest School of Medicine surgeon will discuss regenerative medicine, the process of replacing or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore normal function, in a lecture at the University of Rhode Island on Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

The event is part of the URI Honors Colloquium, which examines the question, “Are you ready for the future?” It is free and open to the public.

Anthony Atala, chair of the Department of Urology at Wake Forest and director of its Institute for Regenerative Medicine, will present his talk in Edwards Auditorium on the Kingston campus.

A growing problem in healthcare is the inability to get patients the organs they need when they need them. Atala is exploring the option of creating organs in laboratories. In his presentation he will explain how laboratory-generated organs will lessen the need for organ donors and increase the benefits for organ recipients.

Atala believes that, “a bank of 100,000 specimens of the amniotic stem cells theoretically could supply 99 percent of the U.S. population with perfect genetic matches for transplants.”

How does Atala plan on making this exciting possibility a reality? In his research, Atala has successfully harvested stem cells from the amniotic fluid of pregnant women. These cells are then transformed into other types of mature cells used to replace damaged tissue. Not only are they easier to grow than embryonic stem cells, but working with stem cells derived from amniotic fluid also avoids ethical concerns. He then generates the replacement organ with these cells, the most fascinating of which may be to print them using a 3D printer.

The rest of the speakers in the lecture series are: bioengineer Jim Collins on synthetic biology (Oct. 11); URI Professor Jason Dwyer on trends in nanotechnology (Oct. 18); URI Professor Chris Roman, hurricane researcher Joseph Cione, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute chief technologist James Bellingham on robotics use in the atmosphere and ocean (Oct. 25); biological engineer and brain and cognitive scientist Ed Boyden on enhancing the brain — past, present and future (Nov. 1); cognitive scientist Deb Roy and media researcher Johanna Blakley in a panel on social media (Nov. 8); cybersecurity expert Richard Clarke on cyberwarfare (Nov. 15); and Laurie Zoloth, director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society, on ethics and genetics (Nov. 29).

All of the lectures will be streamed live at, where the complete schedule of events is also listed. For additional information about the URI Honors Colloquium, contact Deborah Gardiner at or 401-874-2382.

Major sponsors of the Honors Colloquium are the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, the URI Honors Program, and the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, with sustaining sponsors including The Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment and the URI Office of the Provost and Office of the President. Additional support is provided by URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, Classroom Media Services, College of the Environment and life Sciences, College of Human Science and Services, College of Business Administration, College of Pharmacy, Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance, University College, Coastal Institute, Division of University Advancement, College of Nursing, Department of Communication Studies, and Media and Technology Services.