Brazilian researchers claim to have bio-printed “hepatic organoids”. These are miniature versions of livers obtained from human blood cells. However, these mini-organs would be able to perform all the functions of a liver. This innovation gives new hope in terms of organ transplant.
A functional mini-liver
In their publication in the journal Biofabrication of November 27, 2019, researchers from the Human Genome and Stem Cell Institute in Sao Paulo (Brazil) indicated that they obtained a mini-liver through bio-printing. However, the latter would fulfill all the functions hoped for! These include the production of vital proteins, the storage of vitamins and the secretion of bile.
The researchers explained that they combined several bioengineering techniques. Indeed, the culture of pluripotent stem cells and cell reprogramming have been combined with 3D bio-printing. However, there is a difference compared to previous research. In fact, the cells were placed entirely in the bio-ink before being extruded. Previously, it was simply a matter of individual cells.
Relieve waiting for transplant
No less than 90 days were required, from collecting the patient’s blood to producing the tissue. First, the researchers reprogrammed the patient’s blood cells into induced pluripotent stem cells. Then, the differentiation of the cells made it possible to change them into liver cells. Finally, their spheroids may have been associated with bio-ink.
You should know that the project directors have bio-printed not one, but three mini-livers. Logically, the stem cells came from three different donors. The objective? Test the method then analyze the functionalities of the organs and the maintenance of cellular contact. As expected, the method worked much better than in the case of previous research incorporating individualized cells. The researchers said the technique could be replicated on a large scale.
Thus, this innovation could open up new hopes in terms of organ transplants. Indeed, the wait for an organ can be very long, which can be problematic. In China, tensions around the field of organ transplants have given rise to questionable research. In 2017, researchers said they wanted to clone pigs to recover their organs. The objective? To successfully transplant humans with these same organs and end the terrible waiting lists.