A team led by researchers from the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has developed a technique that someday may allow growth of transplantable replacement livers. In their report that will be published in Nature Medicine and is receiving early online release, the investigators describe using the structural tissue of rat livers as scaffolding for the growth of tissue regenerated from liver cells introduced through a novel reseeding process.
"Having the detailed microvasculature of the liver within a biocompatible, natural scaffold is a major advantage to growing liver tissue in a synthetic environment," says Basak Uygun, PhD, research associate at the MGH Center for Engineering in Medicine (MGH-CEM) and the paper's lead author. "Our technique of 'decellularizing' organs leaves the vascular system intact, which facilitates repopulation of the structural matrix and the subsequent survival and function of the introduced liver cells."
Liver transplantation is the only effective treatment for liver failure but is greatly limited by the shortage of donor organs. Each year 4,000 individuals who might have survived with a liver transplant die in the U.S. The shortage of donor livers and other organs is a major force behind the emerging field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Efforts to build tissues from the ground up have not yet approached the goal of transplantable replacement organs, and replacing the liver in which each cell is a metabolic factory requiring constant, direct contact with the vascular system has been particularly challenging.
The current report describes a refinement of an approach to re-engineering replacement rat hearts that was reported in 2008 by University of Minnesota researchers. Since liver tissue is much more delicate than the muscular structure of the heart, the MGH-CEM team developed a gentler way of flushing living cells out of the liver's
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Massachusetts General Hospital