Researchers have successfully transplanted functional miniature liver into rats after the bio-engineered organs in the laboratory have been cultured from reprogrammed human skin cells.
The experiment, which gave animals working liver organs, could provide the basis for future treatments to manage terminal liver failure – a disease that claims the lives of over 40,000 people in the United States each year.
Although there is still much work to be done before the technology can directly help human patients, the researchers say that their proof of concept can help substantiate a future alternative to liver transplants, which are often extremely expensive procedures to perform, except they are strictly limited. of sensor supply.
Another positive result would be to use the approach to temporarily increase poor liver function in patients, extend people̵
“The long-term goal is to create organs that can replace organ donation, but in the near future I see this as a bridge for transplantation,” explains pathologist Alejandro Soto-Gutiérrez of the University of Pittsburgh.
“For example, in the case of acute liver failure, you may only need a lifetime recovery for a while instead of a brand new liver.”
To grow their mini-lives, the researchers took human skin cells donated by volunteers and returned them to a stem cell state, known as induced pluripotent stem cells, from which other types of cell types can be derived.
The researchers then induced differentiation in the cells using hormones and other chemicals, causing them to become liver cells, which were grown in the lab.
While it usually takes two years for a human liver to mature from their birth, the researchers were able to grow their miniature analogues in just a few weeks and sow the cultured cells on a rat liver shaft that had been removed from its rat cells.
While previous experimental liver transplant research has incorporated rodent cells into the scaffold, the researchers here used the human stem cells to fill the liver’s functional tissue, along with its vascular system and bile duct network.
When transplanted into five rats, the minivans appeared to function. After four days – at which time the animals were sacrificed and dissected – the tests revealed that the bioengineered liver secreted bile acids and urea; Human liver proteins in animal blood were another sign that the organs were functioning.
Not because the transplants worked perfectly. Evidence of poor blood flow into the graft, in addition to thrombosis and ischemia, shows that there are still serious difficulties in properly connecting grafts such as these to an animal vascular network.
Still, it is still a remarkable achievement. For a short time, five rats lived their lives with human liver, which is not something that has ever been shown before, and it could bring us closer to using the same techniques to benefit human patients one day.
That day may be long gone (perhaps a decade off, researchers suggest), although that is due to the success of a large number of future experiments, including showing that these types of engineered transplants are safe for humans, which remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, methods like this – including work that preceded the same lab last year – may allow the use of such mini-organs to study simulated diseases and test different treatment options.
“I think it’s a very important step because we know it can be done,” Soto-Gutiérrez explained to Inverse. “You can create an entire organ that can function from a cell in the skin.”
The results are reported in cell Reports.