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Functional Human Liver Tissue Successfully Grown from Stem Cells

Scientists have been able to grow functional human liver tissue and transplant it in ordinary mice. Stem cells were used in the process which was successfully carried out by Japanese scientists in lab settings.

Jul 4 2013, 5:55am CDT | by

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Functional Human Liver Tissue Successfully Grown from Stem Cells

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Functional Human Liver Tissue Successfully Grown from Stem Cells

Functional Human Liver Tissue Successfully Grown from Stem Cells

Stem cells were employed in an effort to create human liver tissue. The end products were much smaller than full-fledged human livers. Nevertheless, they functioned perfectly well when transplanted in mice. According to the Smithsonian , the miniature livers were attached to the circulatory system of the mice. They functioned like normal livers clearing away the toxins from the blood. This is the first time the world has seen a really effective organ made by humans in the laboratory. Until now all attempts had yielded no results. The whole process was possible courtesy of stem cell research, which is on the leading edge of medical miracles. Instead of relying on organ donations, stem cells are used to grow the organs in a cultural medium. Already there is talk of the re-grown liver tissue being capable of restoring 30% of the liver function in a human being. But the technology is still in its infancy. It will take over a decade for it to be fine-tuned to fit human physical requirements.

Scientists at Yokohama City University took some samples of human skin cells. These were then treated chemically and grown into early-phase liver cells. Termed pluripotent stem cells, these samples had other human cells from the veins of umbilical cords added to them. The researchers were flabbergasted when they saw the tissues slowly and steadily forming into liver-like organs. The whole process resembled the growth of a liver in a fetus.

The growth continued for the span of two months. At the end of this duration they were transplanted into the internal biological systems of lab mice. Soon enough they began to function with perfect precision. When certain drugs were given to these mice the human transplants filtered the toxins from these medications. Then a potentially lethal drug was given to the mice to test the consequences of the experiment even further. The control group died within ten days. But the mice with the human transplants lived 40 days before dying.

This is a significant find. The next step would be to test drive the liver tissue in human beings. Of course, there is a huge difference between a small liver that fits inside a rat and a human-sized liver. The liver is the largest organ of the body and making one fit for a human being would take a lot of work. Furthermore, the chances of rejection by the host organism may lead to the development of certain drugs that allow acceptance of the liver tissue. A lot needs to be accomplished yet and it is too early to be jumping to any conclusions.

Watch Video of the Experiment.

Image Credit: Getty Images


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