You take a skin cell and make it a functioning organ

Here is another experiment that brings us closer to the era of biofabrication in medicine. This time, scientists managed to grow working mini-livers.

It seems that bioengineering is dealing with ... growing an increasing number of organs. I don't know if breeding is the right word, but it describes the process behind creating miniature livers quite well.

This study was conducted by a team led by Dr. Alejandro Soto-Gutiérrez , a specialist in regenerative medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

A working organ grown from skin cells

How to grow a miniature liver? It's easy. Step one: we take human skin cells and transform them into induced pluripotent stem cells. This trick has been known since 2006, when scientists first reprogrammed ordinary nonpluripotent mouse cells into stem cells.

A year later, the same feat was repeated on human cells. Most often, such reprogramming is done by introducing into the skin cells genes encoding KLF4, SOX2, OCT4 and c-MYC proteins through a retrovirus that serves as a carrier.

Step two - having already pluripotent stem cells, it was enough to multiply them and program them in such a way that they transform into all components (i.e. different cells) constituting one working organ - the liver.

To speed up the whole process, the Pittsburgh team placed the maturing cells of a miniature version of the human liver in a bioreactor, so that the fully developed organ was ready for transplantation in less than a month. Under normal conditions, he would mature for about 2 years. Oh, human liver cells were placed on mouse liver scaffolding.

For what? To breed mini-liver implanted in laboratory mice, of course, and see if they work. Four days after the transplant, the team dissected the animals to see how well the implanted organs work. They work, of course, but scientists have noticed several problems. The most serious of these was the problem with blood flow within and around the transplant.

For now, it is not entirely clear why, but it can be about the compatibility of almost-human liver with the body of mice. In addition to this drawback, all transplanted mini-liver functioned as they should, secreting into the best bile acids and urea.

A future free from transplant queues

"From one skin cell, you can create an entire organ that will be functional," says Alejandro Soto-Gutiérrez.

In Poland, on average, 4-6 months are waiting for a liver transplant. The whole procedure is very complicated, if only due to the fact that the liver must be taken immediately from the donor (these are most often people who have been found to have brain stem death), brought alive and transplanted into the body of the waiting patient.

After these two complicated operations, the question arises of taking lifelong immunosuppressants so that the recipient's body does not reject the transplanted organ. The organ, which is one of the most important organs in our body, is responsible for removing toxic substances from it.

And now imagine a world in which we are able to receive a new liver, compatible with our body (zero risk of recoil) in up to three months. In the distant future, regenerative medicine and biofabrication methods for individual organs are able to fulfill this vision. And by the way reduce the cost of this type of treatment.

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You take a skin cell and make it a functioning organ


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