The promise of curing any number of human ailments through the use of stem cells has been slow going, but a new breakthrough offers hope that the age of organ donation may soon come to an end. Japanese scientists at Yokohama City University have announced that for the first time stem cells have been used to create a working human liver.
Published in this week's Nature journal, the researchers wrote, "To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating the generation of a functional human organ from pluripotent stem cells." Grown gradually over the course of two months, iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) treated to function as liver cells organized into an early stage version of a liver. According to the scientists, once transplanted into test mice, the liver cells grew into what appeared to be the early stages of an adult human liver.
To confirm the functioning of the human liver, they then gave the mice high blood pressure and anti-inflammatory drugs that are broken down differently in humans and mice. Blood test results showed that, rather than breaking the drugs down as a mouse liver might, the mice actually processed the drugs in the same manner as a human liver would.
The paper goes on to state, "Although efforts must ensue to translate these techniques to treatments for patients, this proof-of-concept demonstration of organ-bud transplantation provides a promising new approach to study regenerative medicine." The team says that the next step is to test the stem cell-grown liver in a human subject, not as a transplant, but as a supportive organ for a damaged liver./p>