Tuesday, October 31, 2006

British Scientists Grow Human Liver In Lab


And, they did it starting with stem cells which are the initial cells in an embryo when sperm and egg are joined. Stem cells also exist in umbilical fluid. This is an awesome, awesome achievement:


British scientists have grown the world's first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant. The technique that created the 'mini-liver', currently the size of a one pence piece, will be developed to create a full-size functioning liver.

Described as a 'Eureka moment' by the Newcastle University researchers, the tissue was created from blood taken from babies' umbilical cords just a few minutes after birth. As it stands, the mini organ can be used to test new drugs, preventing disasters such as the recent 'Elephant Man' drug trial. Using lab-grown liver tissue would also reduce the number of animal experiments.

Within five years, pieces of artificial tissue could be used to repair livers damaged by injury, disease, alcohol abuse and paracetamol overdose. And then, in just 15 years' time, entire liver transplants could take place using organs grown in a lab.

The development provides fresh hope for the hundreds of Britons in dire need of a new liver each year. There are currently 336 patients waiting for a liver transplant - the type of operation performed on George Best. However, in 2004, 72 people died waiting for a suitable donor.

The liver tissue is created from stem cells - blank cells capable of developing into different types of tissue - found in blood from the umbilical cord. Working in collaboration with experts from the US, the Newcastle scientists succeeded in separating out the stem cells from blood removed from the umbilical cord minutes after birth.

They are then placed in a 'bioreactor' - a piece of electrical equipment developed by NASA to mimic the effects of weightlessness. Inside this, the freedom from the force of gravity allows them to multiply more quickly than usual. Then, various hormones and chemicals are added to coax the stem cells into turning into liver tissue.


God gave us the materials, and we are learning how to use them.