Would You Pay For a Lab-Grown Penis?


The Defense Department is helping underwrite Dr. Anthony Atala’s groundbreaking work on growing new, transplantable penes from donor cells. This is pretty awesome.

The friendly folks at io9 alerted me to this remarkable research being done at Wake Forest University, partly funded by the Department of Defense. Short version: after years growing new flesh and organs from people’s own cells on sculpted lattices, Dr. Anthony Atala and his team have successfully begun work growing penises. Brand-new, lab-grown dicks, that can be safely transplanted onto the original cell donor. They’re not at human trials yet, but the process is coming along nicely, and is functionally similar to existing processes that work perfectly on patients.

This is tremendously exciting news. First and most obviously for the wounded veterans that are the reason the Defense Department is underwriting this research. (At least I hope that’s the reason. Can anyone think of some sort of sinister black-budget use for this kind of artificial sausage?) The explosives that too many soldiers have encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan tend to concentrate their damage on the lower body, and while prosthetic legs have come a long way, two out of three ain’t good, in this case. Restoring natural sexual function to these guys, not to mention the ability to pee normally, would go a long way to repaying the debt we owe them.

Beyond vets and other people with injured or damaged penises, though, there’s a lot more people who could benefit from this technology. I happen to know a number of transsexual men, and one thing they agree on is that the present state of phalloplasty is woefully inadequate. Many of the trans guys I know have chosen to simply forgo the procedure out of concern over getting a result they’re not happy with. A brand-new, functioning tool would be a godsend for many of these guys, creating a happier and more complete-feeling transition. Not every trans man wants a penis, of course, but this technology could bring a lot of joy and peace of mind to those that do.

And that brings us to the other guys who might find joy and peace of mind in a new piece of equipment: cis men who are simply unhappy with how their genetic dice shook out in the genital department. It’s easy to make fun of guys who are insecure about the size, shape, or appearance of their dick, but it’s a serious issue. Lifelong, crippling insecurity is depressingly common, and in some cases the psychological and emotional effects are worse than that.

Now, honestly, if I were unhappy with my junk, I would probably not take the step of having a new one grown on a custom lattice and installed. For one thing, my health coverage isn’t that good. Reaching a place of emotional acceptance would probably be healthier. But I don’t think I have the right to make that call for other people. Folks deserve to pursue happiness however they feel they need to, and if some fella really feels he needs a new wang to be happy, then I’m glad that will soon be an option for him.

However serious or seemingly minor people’s need for this procedure might be, it is an unequivocally good medical advance, and when it is completed, it will make people’s lives better. Let us pay tribute to Dr. Atala’s fine work in song.

Picture: snre/Flickr

About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is a writer and editor, and quite possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. Good for you Rob, I’m happy for you. I’m also a trans man, some people say that this procedure will not work for trans men because it requires penile cells from the original penis or something. So, until and if it becomes possible for trans men to grow a lab penis, I won’t be getting my hopes up. I would love to grow my own penis, but realistically, that could take many more years to come.

  2. Guys, the latest news about this is from 2009, so obviously it’s been awhile since there have been any updates. I want to bring up a point I made in a reply to another comment, and it’s really simple.

    With everything we have been taught and what we know about sex, when you are smaller than average, it isn’t simply a cosmetic issue. Everyday, we are being told that bigger is better and made to feel worse about something we have no control over. And if you’re constantly around women, it’s even worse. Think of it like this : If you give a woman a choice between a beautiful man who is overweight or a thin man that looks like a troll, she’ll go for the troll 99 out of 100 times. Why? Because thinner is seen as healthier. Forget that any kids that come along will also be ugly as sin, because women don’t think that way.

    And with many women holding onto the belief that bigger is better, that doesn’t leave many viable options for those of us who don’t even have average equipment. It’s either take the time to find a virgin, visit prostitutes, or go through a never-ending cycle of broken relationships simply because you don’t “measure up.” Dr. Atala and his team are about to level the playing field, and for those of us who own small equipment, this will give us a much better chance at having a long-term relationship and a normal life.

    • Yeah, it /would/ be possible if he and his researchers would get off their lazy asses and actually start growing human penises. The last research they did was with mice in 2009. What happened, did they just quit? That was five years ago, plenty of time for them to have perfected a lab grown human penis by now.

    • Actually dude, women will choose the guy with the best personality, and what she finds attractive. What you consider beautiful, isn’t necessarily what they consider beautiful. And women don’t give a shit about the size of your cock. Most women don’t orgasm through sex, so if you’re good with your tongue, then you’re good to go.
      As a trans man, I’m super excited for this particular research, because phalloplasty surgery is not very good at the moment and the idea of having a proper, fully-functional penis- that actually looks like a penis- is just fantastical. In the meanwhile, I guess I’m just lucky that I’m good with my tongue 😉

  3. A few things. 1 how much do you think this will cost? when do you thing this will be ready? With this work for a man who has has erectile dysfunction for 23 years? how can i reach this DR?

  4. brother1 says:

    how long will this take to be available? how much would it cost? will insurance pay?

  5. Snake Oil Baron says:

    I’d, hypothetically, want to see how well they worked for reconstructive purposes before I’d slice the original for a better model. It might end up looking better but not being connected to the nerves as well as one had hoped.

    And actually, I can and did think of some sinister, if amussing, military usages for this but I think I will keep them to myself in the interests of national security. (*cough* Massive arrays for aquatic propulsion *cough*)

  6. Wow, it’s nice to hear that there’s some work being done in this field, as a Trans* man It’d be nice to have more choices because as it is… There aren’t many.

  7. cool!
    id certainly like my foreskin back

  8. courage the cowardly dog says:

    Folks deserve to pursue happiness however they feel they need to,

    Just not on my tax dollar. I have no problem funding this for the benefit of wounded vets, but when it comes to purely aesthetic purposes or to enhance some other guys sex life, let him pay for it himself.

    • You're an Idiot says:

      Your “tax dollars” are funding the research and experiments that will one day make this technology possible. You’re not going to be paying for actually growing and attaching someone else’s penis.

      Once this becomes possible, people who want a new penis only for cosmetic reasons will be responsible for paying for it themselves just like with any other cosmetic surgery and people who want a new penis because they’ve lost the original due to an accident will have their health insurance help them pay for it. You’r precious tax dollars won’t have anything to do with it unless, of course, the US government continues to screw the healthcare system. Then you will be paying for everyone’s new penis whether you like it or not.

      • For most of the guys who would elect to have their penis genetically enlarged, it isn’t a cosmetic issue. It’s about having equipment that is at least considered to be of a normal, average size. In other words, the smaller your penis is, the more likely you are to consider this when it becomes available. And yes, since my full erection is only about the size of a Bic lighter, I will probably be at the front of the line.

  9. Hey, can I ‘Supersize’ my order!

    • You know, as I think about it, I’d like to apologize on being so flippant in my comment above(crude humor attempt). If the technology in fact existsand can be developed, we owe it to these Brave Heros who sacrificed it all for us.

  10. Chicky Nobs freak me out, but I’d take a lab-grown sausage.

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