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Augmentation

Artificial Genitals Are Now a Reality

The future is bright for prosthetic genitals and the people they can help.

Several futuristic treatments have emerged for erectile dysfunction, a condition that affects more than 150 million men around the world.

And two of them are human augmentations: artificial changes to the body that help people overcome their natural limits. These exciting advances were shared in the medical journal Therapeutic Advances in Urology by researchers at the University of Texas Medical School earlier this year.

The two augmentations are listed below, plus other treatments that hint at a sophisticated future for genital enhancement. It looks very different to the present.

Human Augmentations

Tissue Engineering

In 1998, professor James J. Yoo of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues grew cartilage rods out of cow cells. With the rods, they created useable organic penis shafts.

In 2010, Yoo joined a research team from Wake Forest University. It included the famous surgeon Anthony Atala, with whom Yoo had worked with earlier on the aforementioned cartilage rods project. This time they created entire organic penises for rabbits. It had an 83% success rate. Tissue engineered penises are yet to be attempted on human subjects.

New Penile Implants

A machine is surgically placed in the genitals, which engorges the penis when activated. The most widely used implant currently comes in three parts. One part is a pump placed inside the scrotum.

The others are tubes in the penis that fill with liquid to create an erection, and a reservoir of liquid in the abdomen. The user squeezes his scrotum to “pump up” an erection. After sex, one more squeeze makes the member flaccid again. It’s called the Scott prosthesis after its inventor, F. Brantley Scott.

Penile_prosthesis

Image source: Angelatomato

Penile implants may sound cutting edge, but they’ve existed since the ‘70s.

Since the turn of the century, the penile implant has evolved in exciting ways. In 2000, Mentor Corporation, now owned by Coloplast, created the Lock-Out Valve, which stops an erection from being accidentally triggered. Scrotal pumps went through a few stages until Coloplast launched the One-Touch Release pump in 2008. Now pumps only need one squeeze rather than several exhausting squeezes.

A new design by Sir Giles Brindley has cut down the amount of surgery needed and streamlined the implant into two pieces. Sir Giles was knighted for his work in erectile technology, and is infamous for a lecture in which he exposed his erection to the audience and invited them to touch it.

However, Sir Giles’s new design has a high failure rate. In a study of 31 patients in the UK and Singapore, two got infected and 11 of the implants were mechanical failures.

A whole new implant made of a titanium-nickel alloy is in development. It triggers a perfectly natural-looking erection when heat is applied. It’s called a shape metal alloy (SMA) and is already used in several technologies, including fighter jets and shower heads. SMA was originally created by the U.S. Navy, who called it Nitinol. A patent for the SMA penile prosthesis was filed in 2013 by Brian V. Le and his colleagues.

Other Penile Technologies

In addition to human augmentations, the Therapeutic Advances in Urology article mentions several other game-changing treatments for erectile dysfunction.

Nanotechnology

In 2010, New York-based researcher G. Han and his team developed several gels filled with nanoparticles, which are virus-sized molecules. These molecules are equipped with the chemicals that create an erection. Rats reacted to most of the gels within minutes. While the gels still appear to be unnamed and experimental, this method is expected to revolutionize erectile medicine.

Impulse Magnetic-Field Therapy

A copper coil goes around the shaft of the penis. It sends out an alternating magnetic current, which stimulates the body’s electrolytes. This circulates the blood and oxygen, reversing the erectile dysfunction process, according to a 2002 study in Munich. This therapy has a 500-year-old history of world-changing breakthroughs and quackery.

The coil was first used by legendary physicist Michael Faraday to discover electromagnetism. Impulse magnetic-field therapy began as a treatment for injured horses.

Vacuum Erectile Device (VED)

The VED is a medical penis pump used for patients of prostate cancer and prostatectomy. It gets the blood flowing and opens the vessels by creating a vacuum around the penis.

Apart from encouraging penile health, the VED has antihypoxic, antiapoptopic, and antifibrotic properties. Although it’s only become an erectile treatment in recent years, the first penile vacuum device was patented in 1917, based on an 1874 design by physician John King. Here’s a diagram [NSFW].

Artificial Vaginas

There’s good news for women, too. This year, American researchers announced that four artificial vaginas they developed and surgically attached to patients were working perfectly.

The US-based Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which is directed by Anthony Atala, took the cells of four females. They made vagina-shaped scaffolds out of cloth and let the cells grow around the scaffolds at body temperature.

Doctors later stitched the artificially grown vaginas into the patients’ bodies. The researchers left the patients with their new genitalia for five to eight years, giving annual checkups. Now the patients are all young women with normal sex lives. This gives new hope to women who have vaginal cancer or need reconstructive surgery.

Here’s one of the vaginas being created:

labvagina

Image source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

While new medicine is always popular, the real breakthroughs of 2014 have been mechanical and biological implants. We’ve even grown and reattached body parts. How do you feel about living in a world where you and your partners could have artificial genitalia?

Featured imaged source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine

Note: The article has been updated to clarify that Yoo and Atala worked together on the cartilage rods project.

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  • Bex vanKoot

    These new biological technologies seem to hold a lot of potential for trans individuals! Looking forward to seeing how they develop further.