The Promise of Stem Cells

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Stem Cells

For years stem cells have promised to generate new organs. A new heart. A new liver. A new pancreas. But technology hasn’t been able to bring this dream into reality.

From USA Today:

An international stem cell research team reports Wednesday that they have grown functioning human liver tissues in mice.
The human liver “buds” implanted in the mice represent a first experimental step in growing replacement organs from stem cells for transplants, such as liver, pancreas and kidneys, says the research team headed by Japan’s Takanori Takebe of the Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine. The team relied on a “cocktail” of so-called induced stem cells grown to resemble the nascent liver bud cells used in the experiment.

“The liver bud is formed at the very early stage of development — normally in humans, maybe around five or six weeks,” said Takebe, in a Tuesday briefing for reporters. “We basically mimicked this very early transition process of the liver-bud-forming process.”

Discovered in 2006, induced stem cells are grown from mature tissues, typically skin cells, into the unspecialized stem cell state that allows for their cultivation into a wide variety of cell types, from brain to blood to liver cells. In the new study reported in the journal Nature, the Japanese team reports they essentially mixed together a trio of induced stem cells that included liver cells to see what would happen.

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