The organs were developed from human cells and survived for four days in their hosts – an achievement that represents a major advance in the field.
Using human skin cells, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, created functional mini-livers and transplanted them into rats. The results were published on Tuesday (02) in the scientific journal Cell Reports and, according to the scientists, the organs survived for four days in their hosts.
“Seeing that little human organ there inside the animal – brown, looking like a liver – that was pretty cool,” said Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez, the research leader, in a statement to the press. “This thing that looks like a liver and functions like a liver came from somebody’s skin cells.”
The mini-livers secrete bile acids and urea as a normal organ and were created in less than a month by the researchers. According to them, the miniatures were created from the reprogramming of human skin particles that were transformed into stem cells and then into liver cells.
The mini-organs were implanted in five mice and, although blood flow problems were observed in all cases, the transplanted mini-livers worked well. The result left scientists optimistic, as it represents an advance in the creation of organs in the laboratory and science as a whole.
“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,” explained Soto-Gutierrez. “For instance, in acute liver failure, you might just need hepatic boost for a while instead of a whole new liver.”