Success for scientists as human livers are made in lab
Scientists have successfully grown miniature human livers in the laboratory, taking a leap forward towards creating organs for patients.
Previously the same bioengineering success had only been achieved with rat cells in a proof-of-concept study.
The new research raises the prospect of growing livers that can be transplanted into patients, or used to test the safety of experimental drugs.
Professor Mark Thursz, consultant hepatologist at St Mary's Hospital, London, and spokesman for the British Liver Trust, said: "There is no doubt that this is a major breakthrough for patients with hepatitis C."
A team of US scientists created the organs by sowing seeds of human cells onto collagen "scaffolds" derived from animal livers.
The collagen, left behind after removing all the animal cells with detergent, gave the livers their shape and structure.
The original cells were then replaced with immature human liver cells, and the vital endothelial cells that line the walls of blood vessels.
After a week being nourished with nutrients and oxygen in a laboratory "bioreactor", the livers were seen to be growing and functioning like a human organ.
The next step is to see if the organs will continue to function after they have been transplanted into animals. Only then will it be possible even to consider their use in humans.