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Re-Engineered Livers

July 15, 2010

Scientists may someday be able to rebuild a functional liver on the stripped-down blood vessels of an old one.


Re-engineered livers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A quarter of a million donated livers are thrown away each year, because they’re unfit for transplantation. But someday, such organs may be rebuilt from the frame like a classic car. Basak Uygun of Massachusetts General Hospital and her colleagues are stripping rat livers down to their underlying blood vessels, and rebuilding them with new, healthy liver cells. They recently proved the concept in the lab.

BASAK UYGUN (Massachusetts General Hospital):
We observed liver function and survival of these cells for up to ten days outside the body.

When transplanted back into the animals, the re-engineered livers lasted only eight hours, so there’s much more work to be done. But eventually, the researchers hope the technique will be a cheaper, more efficient alternative to engineering organs from scratch. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.