Scientists have successfully transferred functional miniature livers to mice, after growing bioengineered organs in the lab from reprogrammed human skin cells.
The experiment, which provided animals working with liver organs, could provide the basis for future treatments to address terminal failure in the liver – a disease that claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people in the US each years.
While there is still a lot of work to be done before the procedure can help human patients directly, researchers say their proof of concept can help support a future alternative to liver transplants, which often Incredibly expensive methods to perform, in addition to being strictly limited by the donor̵7;s supply.
Another positive outcome is to use the approach to temporarily increase the function of liver function in patients, prolonging people’s lives while they are on the waiting list for these vital organs: a situation faced by of the 14,000 Americans at any given moment, most of whom have never received a transplant.
“The long-term goal is to create organs that can replace organ donation, but in the near future, I see it as a bridge to transplant,” explains pathologist Alejandro Soto-Gutiérrez from the University of Pittsburgh .
“For example, with chronic liver failure, you may just need a hepatic boost for a while instead of a whole new liver.”
To grow their mini livers, the researchers took human skin cells donated by volunteers and returned them to a stem cell state, known as induced pluripotent stem cells, from where other types of cell types can be obtained.
Researchers then induced differentiation into cells with the help of hormones and other chemicals, prompting them to become liver cells, cultivated in the lab.
While it usually takes two years for a person’s liver to mature from their birth, researchers have been developing their miniature analogues in just a few weeks, flowering cells in a rat rat in the liver it is stripped of rat cells.
While previous experiments in graft liver bleeding have included rodent cells on the scaffold, here researchers have used human stem cells to form functional liver tissue, including the vascular system and bile duct network.
When transferred to five rats, mini livers appear to function. After four days – in which the animals were sacrificed and dissected – tests revealed that bioengineered livers secreted bile acids and urea; Human liver proteins in animals’ blood are another sign that organs are functioning.
It just doesn’t work anymore. Evidence of poor blood flow to the graft, in addition to thrombosis and ischemia, still presents serious difficulties in properly connecting grafts like these to the vascular network of an animal.
However, it is still a breakthrough. In a short time, five rats lived their lives on the smallest non-subcutaneous humans, which is not something that has been demonstrated before, and it can bring us closer to using the same methods for the benefit of patients of man one day.
That day can be a long time (maybe a decade, researchers suggest), though it depends on a large scope of future experiments, including showing that the types of transplants stored are safe for to humans, which remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, methods like this – including work approved by the same laboratory last year – could enable the use of such mini organs to study simulated diseases and test different options in treatment.
“I believe this is a very important step because we know it can be done,” Soto-Gutiérrez told Inverse. “You can make an entire organ that can function from a skin cell.”
The findings are reported in Cell Reports.