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Machines Like Us

Rudimentary liver grown in the lab

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Japanese scientists have used induced stem cells to create a liver-like tissue in a dish.

Although they have yet to publish their results and much work remains to be done, the achievement could have big clinical implications. If the results bear out, they would also constitute a significant advance in the ability to coax stem cells to self-organize into organs.

The work was presented by Takanori Takebe, a stem-cell biologist at Yokohama City University in Japan, at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Yokohama last week. “It blew my mind,” said George Daley, director of the stem-cell transplantation programme at the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, who chaired the session.

“It sounds like a genuine advance,” says Stuart Forbes, who studies liver regeneration at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Forbes, who also works as a consultant for Scotland’s liver-transplantation unit, says that the advance could one day help to avoid the “bleak outcome” currently experienced by the many patients who don’t survive long enough to get a new liver.

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