Fresh hopes for transplant patients after Scots team’s breakthrough
TRANSPLANT patients have new hope after Scots scientists successfully grew liver tissue that could be used to help those whose organs fail.
The average wait for a liver transplant in Britain is four months, leaving many people severely ill and at risk of death.
But liver tissue grown from human stem cells by researchers at Edinburgh University could help a failing organ filter harmful toxins from the blood.
When the tissue was transplanted into mice, they regained weight, showed fewer signs of liver damage and had fewer toxins in their blood.
The researchers say that the procedure is potentially only five years away from human trials and could be available to patients in a decade. Professor David Hay,
‘Many with liver disease die waiting’
who led the research, said: ‘Liver disease is a serious and increasing problem – it’s the fifth-biggest killer in the UK.
‘Many people with liver disease will die waiting for a transplant or develop complications from long-term exposure to immunosuppressant drugs after a transplant, so we urgently need alternatives.
‘These results are an important early step and now we need to conduct longerterm studies to fully establish the safety of this technique.’
He added: ‘We’re excited that the implants successfully aided liver function. We hope implants like these may one day be able to help people with failing livers.’
The research was published in the journal Archives of Toxicology. Scientists have previously been able to grow liver tissue from stem cells but these have be short-lived.
Dr Rob Buckle, chief science officer at the Medical Research Council, said: ‘This research brings us a step closer to harnessing the potential of stem cell “reprogramming” technologies to provide renewable supplies of liver tissue products for transplantation.’