Lab-made liver tissue may be used for drug screening
Laboratory-engineered liver tissuecould be extremely useful, helping doctors to screen new drugs, andit could even one day be used for transplants. Unfortunately, it'salso very difficult to replicate the organ's complex structure andfunctions outside of the human body. Now, researchers from China's Northwest A&F University have managed to construct artificial tissue that'sproving effective at mimicking the real thing.
The liver is an extremely importantorgan, but it's also fairly prone to developing severe issues. Thingslike viral infections, bad reactions to drugs and alcoholism can stopthe organ functioning properly, causing swelling, pain, nausea andmore. If the issues are significant enough to cause the liver tofail, then the patient will need a replacement organ to survive.
With that in mind, it's not difficultto see why the development of artificial liver tissue is soimportant. Such a breakthrough would not only allow doctors to test drugs without the risk of damaging precious tissue, but could evenone day remove reliance on donor organs.
Moving a step closer to that goal, theresearchers used human cells taken from a human liver and aorta toconstruct a microfluidics-based tissue that's very similar to theliver's lobules – very small structures resembling wheels withspokes.
In testing, the engineered tissue wasfound to have a metabolic rate closer to a real liver than anyprevious lab-grown effort. The artificial liver tissue also reactedthe same way to various combinations of drugs as the organ itsdesigned to mimic.
Clinical applications for theartificial tissue are a long way off, but the team believes that itswork is a promising first step in the development of functional livertissue for actual medical use.
The findings of the study are publishedin the journal Analytical Chemistry.
Source: American Chemical Society