Scientists Grow Penises in the Lab. Soon You Will Be Able To Get A Custom Penis Grown From Your Own Cells

Karina Pawlak
5 min readMar 2, 2024
The human penis. The erectile tissue in the penis is called the corpus cavernosa (singular: corpus cavernosum). Scientists successfully engineered rabbit corpus cavernosa in the lab. Corpus Cavernosa derives from Latin: body, and caverna: hollow. Illustration by Diana Grossi.

The corpus cavernosa, two rods of sponge-like tissue, line the shaft of the penis. When the penis is sexually stimulated, the penile blood vessels dilate. Blood floods the corpus cavernosa. The penis erects. The sponge-like tissue also forms the erectile region of the female clitoris. The wing-shaped erectile region of the clitoris is named the corpus cavernosum clitoridis.

Dr. Anthony Atala and his team of researchers at Wake Forest University reported successfully engineering rabbit corpus cavernosa in their lab. The results were published in the February 23, 2010, issue of the scientific journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences.

How Did Atala’s Team Engineer Corpus Cavernosa?

Step 1. Creating a scaffold. The team removed the corpus cavernosa from 12 male rabbits. Fibrous tissue made of collagen protein envelops the corpus cavernosa. Bundles of collagen fibres build most of the body’s connective structures. The corpus cavernosa was scooped out of the collagen shells.

“The decellurized corporal scaffolds [the shells] were lyophilized [freeze-dried], sterilized with low temperature ethylene oxide, and stored in a dessicator until use.”

Step 2. Isolating and culturing the cells. Atala’s team biopsied the corpus cavernosa of a separate batch of 12 healthy (and still intact) male rabbits.

The corpus cavernosa consists of two tissue types: smooth muscle tissue and endothelial tissue. Endothelial tissue lines the inside of blood vessels.

“Under normal conditions,” Atala explains, “erection is initiated by nitric oxide release from the endothelial cells, which triggers smooth muscle relaxation and influx of blood into the corporeal spaces.”

The team isolated the smooth muscle cells and the endothelial cells from the biopsied tissues. Each cell type requires its own specific conditions to thrive. A growth formula was prepared for the endothelial cells and a growth formula for the smooth muscle cells. Atala’s team then prepared 24 storage dishes: 12 for the endothelial cells and 12 for the smooth muscle cells. The corpus cavernosa…



Karina Pawlak

Philosopher. Artist. Powerlifter. Author of Lifting Weights & Growing Organs.