London: In a breakthrough which could pave the way for customised transplant organs for patients, scientists claim to have successfully grown miniature human livers in the laboratory.
An international team, led by Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina in the US, created working livers the size of a walnut by sowing seeds of human cells onto scaffolds derived from animal livers.
The original cells were subsequently replaced with immature human liver cells before being fed nutrients and oxygen in a bioreactor; and, after a week in the laboratory bioreactor, the livers seemed to be growing and functioning like a normal human organ, say the scientists.
According to them, the research raises the prospect of growing livers that can be transplanted into patients or used to test the safety of experimental drugs, Britain`s `The Daily Telegraph` reported.
Team member Dr Pedro Baptista said: "Our hope is that once these organs are transplanted, they will maintain and gain function as they continue to develop."
The new research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Boston yesterday, where the scientists explained how they had first stripped the cells away from ferret livers using a mild detergent, leaving only the collagen support structure.
This scaffold, which provided shape and structure for the new livers, were then "seeded" with human liver cells that were introduced using the blood vessel network that remains intact after the decellularisation process.
However, it could take five or more years for the technology to find its way from the laboratory into hospitals, say the scientists.