A research team from Mass. discovered a way to take organs that have already died, wash them clean of their past life, and use the building blocks left behind to grow new, vital organs. Today, the team announced that it has successfully implanted one of these refurbished organs into a rat.

Like gutting a house and using only the framework to our purposes, a team of scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital is taking dead organs (that otherwise couldn’t be used for transplanting) and regrowing new organs from them. The process involves putting the organ in a special soapy solution that washes away all but its structural elements. MGH Center for Regenerative Medicine’s Dr. Harald Ott, who is a “senior author” of a paper on the research, calls this the organ’s “architecture.”

Once it has the architecture — which looks like a white, ghostly reminder of the organ it once was — the team is able to implant stem cells taken from another patient to begin the process of regrowing the tissue that completes the organ. It is then suspended in a second solution that is filled with oxygen and nutrients to promote the growth.

The team put a kidney through this process and found that not only did the kidney regrow, it also “began producing urine as soon as the blood supply was restored, with no evidence of bleeding or clot formation” after being implanted into a rat with one working kidney.

But the overall functioning of the bioengineered kidney was stunted in comparison to the existing one. Ott says the team is looking at maturing the cells used to regenerate the organ in order to “achieve a more functional organ.” He said he hopes hospitals will be able to use this process in the future to create “on-demand” organs from a “patient’s own cells.”

hat tip The Verge; Featured image via Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine