Tiny functioning human livers have been grown using stem cells and umbilical cord material in a laboratory by scientists at a Japanese University.
The team at the Yokohama City University were reproducing the earliest stages of liver development by using three types of cells – two types of stem cells and material taken from the umbilical cord.
Takanori Takebe and Hideki Taniguchi at Yokohama City University showed the generation of functional human liver from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) by transplantation of in vitro grown liver buds (rudimentary liver).
This particular study demonstrates a proof-of-concept that organ bud transplantation offers an alternative approach for treating organ failure by generating a 3D and vascularized organ.
What was really surprising during the study was the way the cells began to organise themselves and appeared to curl up to form a liver bud.
Prof Takanori Takebe said: “We just simply mixed three cell types and found that they unexpectedly self-organise to form a three-dimensional liver bud – this is a rudimentary liver.”
“And finally we proved that liver bud transplantation could offer therapeutic potential against liver failure.”
Once created the buds were transplanted into mice. Here they began to hook themselves up with the blood supply and function as little livers.
The outcome of this study could allow our precious cells from the umbilical cord to be used to create other organs using a similar method, like the pancreas, kidneys and maybe even the lungs.
This study will be published in the journal Nature on Wednesday 3rd July.
For more information from the Yokohama City University and the Vascularized and functional human liver from an iPSC-derived organ bud transplant visit their website here.