Human liver 'grown' in lab31st October 2006
The world’s first artificial liver has been grown in a laboratory by British scientists.
The organ, currently the size of a one-pence piece, was grown from stem cells and could pave the way to farm entire organs for transplantation.
The tissue was created from blood taken from babies' umbilical cords just a few minutes after birth.
Now the team from Newcastle University will use the same methods to grow a full-size functioning liver. Within five years it could be available to treat a range of conditions caused by alcohol abuse, diseases such as cancer, and paracetamol overdose.
Researchers say it will take up to 15 years before entire organs can be created for transplantation, but could be used as an artificial liver to lengthen life and give the patient’s own liver time to regenerate.
The mini organ could also be used to test new drugs within two years, say researchers, reducing the number of animal experiments needed.
Each year dozens of people die while waiting for a liver transplant. There are currently more than 300 patients on the waiting list for a liver transplant in Britain.
Stem cells are blank cells capable of developing into different types of tissue and are found in blood from the umbilical cord.
Working alongside experts from the US, the Newcastle scientists isolated stem cells from blood and then allowed it to multiply, adding hormones and chemicals to coax it into liver tissue.
Stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood does not harm the baby and is already used to treat leukaemia. There are more than 11,000 frozen samples of children's cord blood in special banks around the UK.
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Title: Human liver 'grown' in lab
Author: Martine Hamilton
Article Id: 1003
Date Added: 31st Oct 2006