World's First Artificial Human Liver Grown In Lab

The world's first artificial liver has been grown from stem cells by British scientists. The resulting "mini-liver" is the size of a small coin; the same technique will be further developed to create a full-size liver. Unlike other efforts to grow liver cells, this new technique allows researchers to actually duplicate the structure of the organ.


(Artificial liver tissue)

The mini-liver is useful as it is; within two years it can be used to test new drugs, reducing the number of animal experiments as well as providing results based on a human (rather than animal) liver.

Researchers Dr. Colin McGucklin, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at Newcastle University, and Dr. Nico Forraz, Senior Research Associate and Clinical Sciences Business Manager at Newcastle University, say that pieces of artificial liver could be used to repair livers injured by injury, disease, alcohol abuse or other causes in the next five years. These artificial livers could also be used outside the body in a manner analogous to the dialysis process used to keep alive patients whose kidneys have failed.

In fifteen years time, entire livers could be grown in the lab and then be transplanted into human beings.


(Artificial liver tissue)

The stem cells used by Drs. McGucklin and Forraz in this research are gathered from umbilical cords ("cord blood"), seen by some as a more ethical alternative to stem cells created from human embryos.

The cells are then placed in a Bioreactor, a device developed by NASA to simulate the weightless environment of space. The cells are situated in a growth medium that is constantly rotated, putting the cells in an endless state of free-fall. Ordinary cell growth in a nutrient medium in a dish does not provide a culture environment that supports three-dimensional tissue assembly. Epithelial cells without a three-dimensional assembly environment lack the proper clues for growing into the variety of cells that make up a particular tissue. Epithelial cells are the basic cells that differentiate tissue into specific organ functions. In a rotating Bioreactor, scientists can fool cells into behaving as though they are in a body.

The need for an additional source of livers for transplantation is acute. In the United States, more than 17,000 people are currently on liver transplantation lists, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

The advent of the artificially grown liver for transplantation was one of the core issues discussed by science fiction writer Larry Niven in his 1968 novel A Gift from Earth. In the novel, a distant space colony develops a dictatorial government that uses "Implementation" - the practice of gathering criminals and dissidents and then taking out their usable organs for transplants. This practice is disturbingly similar to particular aspects of the penal system in modern China, which also provides transplant organs from condemned criminals. A ship from Earth destroys this system with a shipment of artificially grown organs:

I'm sure we can offer free access to the heartbeasts and liverbeasts and so forth. For a while your colonists will have to come up to the Hospital to get treatment with the ramrobot symbiots, but eventually we can build culture tanks in Gamma and Delta and Eta."
(Read more about Larry Niven's artificially grown organs)

As the need for transplanted organs has grown more acute in our present-day world, the pressure to supply this need from condemned criminals has also grown, just as Niven predicted. Niven also coined the term "organlegging" to describe the practice of stealing another person's organs and selling them for transplantation.

Read about these other science-fictional advances in medicine:

Read an early article about liver tissue grown in a lab and Bioreactors. Thanks to reader Bob Fandrich for the tip on the story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/31/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Medical ")

You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.' - Frank Herbert, 1972.

First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.

Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...

MIT Ampli Blocks Build Biomedical Devices
Damn it Spock, I'm a doctor not an engineer!

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'

DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'

Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.

ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.

When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'

Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'

'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'

Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'

Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'

Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.

Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'

Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'

Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'

CIMON Space Sidekick For Weary Astronauts
I welcome our floating robotic assistants.

SRI MicroFactory Of Microrobots Recalls Dick's Autofac
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants... constructing something...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.