Lab-grown 'Mini-Bile Ducts' Used To Repair Human Livers In R
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Scientists have used a technique to grow bile duct organoids, often referred to as 'mini-organs' in the lab. The research paves the way for cell therapies to treat liver disease—in other words, growing 'mini-bile ducts' in the lab as replacement parts that can be used to restore a patient's own liver to health or to repair damaged organ donor livers, so that they can still be used for transplantation.

In a study published today in Science, have developed a new approach that takes advantage of a recent 'perfusion system' that can be used to maintain donated organs outside the body. Using this technology, they demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to transplant biliary cells grown in the lab known as cholangiocytes into damaged human livers to repair them.

Organoids could be used to repair damaged organs or provide alternatives to organ transplantation. Scientists have been using organoids for years to understand biology and disease. This is the first study to show, in principle, that this should be possible, scientists say. Bile duct diseases affect only certain ducts while sparing others.

Using the techniques of single-cell RNA sequencing and organoid culture, the researchers discovered that, although duct cells differ, biliary cells from the gallbladder, which is usually spared by the disease, could be converted to the cells of the bile ducts usually destroyed in disease and vice versa using a component of bile known as bile acid.

Researchers grew gallbladder cells as organoids in the lab to test their hypothesis. They then grafted these gallbladders organoids into mice and found that they were able to repair damaged ducts. This could open up avenues for regenerative medicine applications in the context of biliary system diseases.

The team used the technique on human donor livers taking advantage of the perfusion system. They injected the gallbladder organoids into the human liver and showed for the first time that the transplanted organoids repaired the organ's ducts and restored their function. This study therefore confirmed that their cell-based therapy could be used to repair damaged livers.

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