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 |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
TytoCare Offers Futuristic Home Care
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...' - EM Forster, 1909.
Would You Swallow An Origami Robot?
'Swallow it in an emergency--it goes down easily and works just as well inside as outside.' - Doc Smith, 1934.
Biotech Firms Raised $Millions For Anti-Agathics (Longevity Drugs)
'Against Death doth no simple grow.' - James Blish, 1957.
Medical Tattoos Are STILL Being Researched
'Following the current craze, she has had a subdermal pattern of micro-channels implanted.'
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.
Personalized Masks Appear
'The tiger stripes on Jim's mask... made the young people easy to identify.'
Foiling Facial Recognition, Fighting Coaster Viruses, Harlan Ellison-Style
I have no mouth and I must scream.
Ford Uses Obedient Robot Dogs To Update Facilities Maps
'If he sent out two or three of the small tele-operated devices... [he] could see machinery and construction details in real time from both above and below.'
AirTouch Panels Means No More Dirty Touchscreens!
Useful interfaces now appear in thin air.
EllipticaRunner Robot Is Fast, Amazing, Slightly Worrisome
'THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner's trail in New Delhi...'
SPECTER Electroshock Round Fireable From Shotgun
'...the balls sent by this gun are not ordinary balls, but little
cases of glass.'
100 Terabyte Exadrive SSD Also Has Biggest Price
'A man could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres in a Schrön loop.'
Mechanical Milking Of Microalgae For Fuel Production
'They call 'em culture tanks. They have bugs -- germs -- growing in them.'
Feel Virtual Reality In Mid-Air!
'...a pressure on the lips - warm and soft, moist and sweet.'
Electric Lasso Gives Police Options
'The blast of silver threads enveloped her...'
TytoCare Offers Futuristic Home Care
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'
Powdered Regolith Propulsion
'... filling their great tanks with the finely divided dust which the ionic rockets would spit out in electrified jets.'
Ford's SafeCap, Opposite Of Niven and Barnes' Napcap
'In the napcap a client became an instant yoga master...'
Would You Get 'Chipped'? Michigan May Ban Employers
'Employees above a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors...'
Tesla Autopilot: What Does An Autonomous Car See When It Looks At The Road?
'Jeremiah is a sports-model to begin with and that kind is awfully hot-tempered.'
DNA Controls Swarms Of Molecular Robots
'They exist in loose swarms...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories