British researchers have grown a new liver from umbilical-cord stem cells, a breakthrough of immense proportions that promises the potential of almost-instant organ transplantation:
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 “disaster” to which the Daily Mail refers involved six young people who had an unpredicted reaction to a new drug regime, one that almost killed them. The development of liver tissue from umbilical stem cells means that human drug and therapy trials may not require humans — making the process that much safer and quicker, and helping to bring new treatments to market much sooner.
Of course, the main focus will be on transplantation. Liver transplants are notoriously tricky, even live donors; people donate a portion of their livers, betting that they can live a normal and healthy life with only a portion, which usually works out well. If scientists can grow enough liver tissue for these transplants, it will eliminate the need for live transplants, and perhaps most cadaver donors as well. Hopefully that will lead to other types of organ transplants, especially kidneys and pancreases.
Once again, we see that non-hEsc research produces results. We do not have to grind up our progeny in order to live longer and healthier lives. We should allow our resources to follow our successes, especially when we talk about federal funding. The Anchoress has more, as does The Corner.