University of Pittsburgh Creates Lab-Built Mini-Livers, Successfully Transplants Them Into Rats

University of Pitt
Photo credit James Kappernaros
By NewsRadio 1020 KDKA

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has synthesized a manmade mini-liver in the lab. 

The tiny organs were created by taking skin cells from human volunteers. 

The “fully functional” mini-liver has also been successfully transplanted into rats and survived for four days while inside the host. 

“Seeing that little human organ there inside the animal – brown, looking like a liver – that was pretty cool. 

“This thing that looks like a liver and functions like a liver came from somebody’s skin cells,” said senior author Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez, M.D., Ph.D. 

The little livers regulate bile and urea, just like their larger counterparts and only take a month to mature; regular livers take 2 years in a natural enivironment. 

The scientists and researchers behind the feat used the following methodology to bring the artificial mini-livers to life: programmed human skin cells into stem cells, transitioned the cells to various kinds of hepatic cells, and transferred the new liver cells into a rat liver with its own cells removed. 

The mini-livers were placed within five test rats and were observed four days after the transplant. 

There was short-term viability but blood flow problems occurred around the implanted graft. 

But human proteins were detected in the rats’ blood content. 

“The long-term goal is to create organs that can replace organ donation, but in the near future, I see this as a bridge to transplant,” Soto-Gutierrez said.

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