Human Liver Creation From Stem Cells

Human Liver Creation From Stem Cells

A team of scientists led by Takanori Takebe of Yokohama City University said that they had grown human liver tissue from stem cells in the world first time that holds promise for alleviating the critical shortage of donor organs derived from skin and blood and say their success points to a future where much-needed livers and other transplant organs could be made in a laboratory. They report in the journal Nature that they have grown tissue "resembling the (human) adult liver" in a lab mouse.

 They first created induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that they mixed with other cell types and coaxed them into “liver buds” — the precursor clusters that develop into a liver.

Human Liver Creation From Stem Cells

The buds, each about five millimetres big, were then transplanted onto a mouse brain, where they were observed transforming into a "functional human liver" complete with blood vessels, the scientists wrote.

While it may take another 10 years before lab-grown livers could be used to treat patients, the Japanese scientists say they now have important proof of concept that paves the way for more ambitious organ-growing experiments.

“The promise of an off-the-shelf liver seems much closer than one could hope even a year ago,” said Dusko Illic, a stem cell expert at King’s College London who was not directly involved in the research but praised its success.

Human Liver Creation From Stem Cells

There are two main forms of stem cells — embryonic stem cells, which are harvested from embryos, and reprogrammed “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS cells), often taken from skin or blood.

Countries across the world have a critical shortage of donor organs for treating patients with liver, kidney, heart and other organ failure. Scientists are keenly aware of the need to find other ways of obtaining organs for transplant.

The Japanese team, based at the Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, used iPS cells to make three different cell types that would normally combine in the natural formation of a human liver in a developing embryo — hepatic endoderm cells, mesenchymal stem cells and endothelial cells — and mixed them together to see if they would grow.

They found the cells did grow and began to form three-dimensional structures called “liver buds” — a collection of liver cells with the potential to develop into a full organ.

When they transplanted them into mice, the researchers found the human liver buds matured, the human blood vessels connected to the mouse host’s blood vessels and they began to perform many of the functions of mature human liver cells.

Human Liver Creation From Stem Cells

Associate Professor Ernst Wolvetang, of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology says the research will may one day alleviate the shortage of donated livers for transplantation.

"This provides proof of concept that this may be possible in humans in the future.," says Wolvetang.

"It however remains to be established whether the artificially regrown livers from iPSC will prove to be safe in the long-term.'

Stuart Forbes, professor of transplantation and regenerative medicine at the University of Edinburgh, is equally cautious about the results.

"Whilst the title of the paper is 'functional human liver', these liver buds do not contain the biliary structures (which drain toxins out of the liver) or immune cells that characterise real human liver," he says.

Takebe says the method may also work in organs like the pancreas, kidneys or lungs, but it would be another 10 years before trials are done in humans.


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Write by: RC - Thursday, July 4, 2013

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