This bag of cells can grow new livers in people

In early experiments, Lagasse found that if he injected healthy liver cells into the lymph nodes of mice, cells will flourish and form a second, smaller liver Taking over the function of an animal’s failing liver. The size of the new liver reached 70% of the original liver. “What happens is that the liver grows to a certain size and then stops growing when it reaches the level it needs to function properly,” Lagasse said.

At the University of Pittsburgh, Lagasse and his colleagues also tested the approach on pigs. Research published in 2020They found that after injecting the cells into abdominal lymph nodes, the pigs restored liver function. When the scientists examined the lymph nodes using miniature livers, they found that a network of blood vessels and bile ducts formed spontaneously. The longer the pig’s natural liver, the larger the secondary liver, suggesting the animal’s body may be able to recognize healthy liver tissue and transfer responsibility to it.

“It is remarkable to identify lymph nodes as reproducible and fertile beds for the regeneration of a variety of tissues and organs in two different animal species,” said Abla Creasey, vice president of therapeutic development at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “These findings demonstrate that This approach could provide an alternative source of tissue for patients with organ failure,”

Elliot Tapper, a liver specialist at the University of Michigan, is also excited about the prospect of turning lymph nodes into new livers. “Even though it’s not where the liver is supposed to be, it can still perform some liver functions,” he said.

The most likely benefit of LyGenesis treatment is the removal of ammonia from the blood, he said. In end-stage liver disease, ammonia can build up and enter the brain, causing confusion, mood swings, falls and sometimes coma. He believes the new mini-organs can’t do all the work of a natural liver because they contain cell types other than liver cells.

One of the big questions is how many cells a human would need to grow a liver large enough to take over certain important functions, such as filtering blood and producing bile. In the LyGenesis trial, three other patients will receive an injection of 50 million cells into a single lymph node — the lowest “dose.” If this appears to be safe, a second group of four people will inject 150 million cells into three different lymph nodes. A third group will inject 250 million cells into five lymph nodes – meaning they could have five mini-livers growing inside them.

The effects of treatment are not immediate. Hufford said it could take two to three months for the new organ to grow large enough to take over some of the functions of the natural liver. Like organ donors, trials also require lifelong immunosuppressant medication to prevent the body from rejecting the donor cells.

If this approach works, it could offer some patients a life-saving alternative to liver transplantation. “If they show that it’s effective and safe,” Tapper said, “there will certainly be candidates interested in this intervention.”

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