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Artificial livers a step closer

Published by Daily Trust on Wed, 12 Jun 2013


Prometheus, the mythological figure who stole fire from the gods, was punished for this theft by being bound to a rock. Each day, an eagle swept down and fed on his liver, which then grew back to be eaten again the next day. Modern scientists know there is a grain of truth to the tale, says MIT engineer Sangeeta Bhatia: The liver can indeed regenerate itself if part of it is removed. However, researchers trying to exploit that ability in hopes of producing artificial liver tissue for transplantation have repeatedly been stymied: Mature liver cells, known as hepatocytes, quickly lose their normal function when removed from the body. 'It's a paradox because we know liver cells are capable of growing, but somehow we can't get them to grow' outside the body, says Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences. Now, Bhatia and colleagues have taken a step toward that goal. They have identified a dozen chemical compounds that can help liver cells not only maintain their normal function while grown in a lab dish, but also multiply to produce new tissue.
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