Newcastle University researchers have successfully ‘grown’ a human liver the size of a penny with the help of umbilical cord blood.
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.
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.
he 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.
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