Researchers Develop ‘Mini Livers’ From Skin Cells That Could Help Thousands Waiting For A Transplant

(Photo credit: REUTERS/Keith Bedford)

Alec Schemmel Contributor
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A new breakthrough by researchers could make waiting for a liver transplant less deadly than it has been in the past.

In a proof-of-concept experiment, Dr. Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez and his team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine developed “fully functional mini livers” that they then transplanted into rats and kept alive for four days inside the animal hosts, according to a press release from the University of Pittsburgh.

These “made-to-order” miniature livers could potentially replace organ donation in the long term. In the short short term, though, they could be an aid to anyone enduring the often-fatal wait that patients experience when awaiting a new liver, according to Soto-Gutierrez.

Surgeons operate to extract the liver and the kidneys from a brain-dead woman at a Berlin hospital. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (GERMANY)

“For instance, in acute liver failure, you might just need hepatic boost for a while instead of a whole new liver,” he said in the university’s press release.

An average of three people die every day waiting for a liver transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Their data indicates a total of 1,184 lives lost in 2018. (RELATED: Ed Henry Returns To Fox News After Liver Transplant To Save His Sister)

There are still significant challenges standing in their way, Soto-Gutierrez noted in the press release, including long-term survival and safety issues.

However, Soto-Gutierrez is optimistic that this research is more than just a step towards replacing organ donations, but is also a useful tool in its own right.

There are almost 14,000 patients on waiting lists to receive a liver transplant, according to the American Liver Foundation.