Monday, 25 June 2012

Primitive Eye, Tiny Liver Grown in the Lab

Japanese scientists claim to have coaxed stem cells to develop into a rudimentary human liver, replete with working blood vessels and the ability to metabolize. At the same time, another group in Japan reports the growth from stem cells of a precursor of a human eyeball.

Both feats were presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Yokohama, Japan, last week. Although further progress is needed before fully functional lab-grown livers and eyes will be ready to implant into a human, outside experts say the new results constitute genuine advances in that direction — and they have other medical uses in the meantime.

Takanori Takebe, a stem-cell biologist at Yokohama City University in Japan, and his team grew a small, rudimentary liver using a recipe of just three types of cells. The trick was figuring out when to introduce each ingredient into the mix of cells: "It took over a year and hundreds of trials," Takebe was quoted as saying in Nature.

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