For the first time, a pair of researchers at the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital has devised a section of liver tissue that worked normally when grafted onto an animal's liver. And the advancement may eventually offer a new option for patients awaiting a liver transplant.
"Given enough careful work this approach could ultimately revolutionize tissue engineering and provide real working grafts for the liver and other complex tissues," said Dr. Martin Yarmush said.
Yarmush and Korkut Uygun faced a tricky obstacle in producing a section of working liver tissue. They took a rat's liver and used a new technique to gently remove liver cells from the tissue, leaving a complex "scaffold" of blood vessels that were repopulated with cultured living cells.
"Technically, it's fantastic," said Geoff McCaughan of the Centenary Institute and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital about the proof of concept work. Obviously, much more work needs to be done before they try this on humans, but the study has broad significance in the field of tissue generation.
"There is great potential for constructing full-fledged liver lobes containing animal or human cells," Yarmush, director of MGH-CEM, said in a hospital news release. "But several thorny issues must first be tackled."