Wall Street Daily
We’ve already discussed how Organovo (OTCQB: ONVO) has managed to build blood vessels and tissue using 3-D bioprinting technology.
The technology is no doubt revolutionary, as the tissue can be used to test new pharmaceutical drugs more effectively. The tissue reacts to drugs just like it would in a real person. Meaning that pharmaceutical companies can see how the drug would interact with our bodies, giving a more accurate idea of side effects than animal testing would alone.
The next step for Organovo is to build fully useable organs from scratch, as well. That is, unless these researchers in Japan get there first.
The “Liver Bud”
These researchers at Yokohama City University were able to build a liver, out of non-liver cells.
It’s made possible by combining donor skin cells with induced pluripotent stem cells (or iPS cells). Essentially, iPS cells are just normal cells that have been given a new “mission.” That is, they can grow into any type of cell – like skin, lung, muscle, bone and, yes, liver.
What’s interesting is that the discovery happened by chance…
As Takanori Takebe, one of the researchers at the University, says, “We mixed and graded the cells onto the culture dish and they moved to form a cluster. It was a surprising outcome from what was, to be honest, an accident.”
Later analysis shows that these cells – which weren’t liver cells to begin with – now carry a special biochemical marker that only comes from maturing liver cells. In other words, the cells were successfully “reprogrammed.”
It’s at this crucial point that the scientists introduced two other types of cells to help the liver perform its task as an organ.
And two days later… they had a working liver. Well, to be fair, it’s not a fully functional organ.
“It’s not yet a perfect liver,” Takebe says. “Improvements need to be made, such as the reconstruction of a bile duct.”