Micro LiverNovember 1, 2010
Researchers at Wake Forest University’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine have grown a miniature liver using human cells. It’s only an inch in diameter which is not big enough to work for a regular sized human being but would be more then sufficient if we were to shrink the human body to 50 cm.
To engineer the organs, the scientists used ferret livers that were treated with a detergent to remove all cells. What’s left behind is a collagen matrix that’s a perfect scaffold for a new organ. They then replaced the original cells with two types of human cells: immature liver cells known as progenitors, and endothelial cells that line blood vessels. When fetal cells from the appropriate organ are pumped into the scaffold, they home in on the appropriate location and begin to grow. When supplied with oxygen and nutrients in the lab’s “bioreactor,” the cells create a new organ on the scaffold.
“Our hope is that once these organs are transplanted, they will maintain and gain function as they continue to develop,” said lead author Pedro Baptista.