As reported by The Telegraph, scientists have created ‘working livers’ the size of a walnut, which were found to function normally in laboratory conditions.
It is hoped the process will be one day be up-scaled and moved from the lab to the hospital, taking us one step closer to solving the transplant shortage.
Speaking of the new development, Associate Professor Shay Soker of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, stated, “We are excited about the possibilities this research represents, but must stress that we’re at an early stage and many technical hurdles must be overcome before it could benefit patients.”
“Not only must we learn how to grow billions of liver cells at one time in order to engineer livers large enough for patients, but we must determine whether these organs are safe to use in patients.”
Over 600 liver transplants take place each year in the UK, but unfortunately, it is estimated that more than a fifth of patients die waiting for their procedure. The problem is alleviated due to the fact that many livers have to be discarded as they are too old or damaged to be of any use.
Sarah Matthews, of the British Liver Trust, said: “Technology such as this is much needed. Currently supply isn’t meeting demand, and for every one person who receives a liver transplant, 10 people die.
“Expanding waistbands and heavy drinking habits are having an impact on the quality of donor organs available in the UK, therefore we desperately need developments in liver science. We are encouraged by these results but would also like to warn patients that this technology is a good few years off from becoming available,” she said.
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Boston.
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