Researchers at Wake Forest have used two types of adult progenitor cell to form miniature functioning livers in the laboratory.

The research will be presented today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. To construct the liver pieces, the scientists stripped all of the cells off of animal livers, then seeded the remaining collagen skeleton with human liver progenitor (precursor) cells and human endothelial cells (which line and create blood vessels.) The remade liver construct was grown in a bioreactor in the lab, and after a week demonstrated human liver tissue growth and function.

Senior author Shay Soker noted:

We are excited about the possibilities this research represents, but must stress that we’re at an early stage and many technical hurdles must be overcome before it could benefit patients”

The bioengineered human livers made from adult cells could have utility for drug testing as well as transplantation.

Soker was part of the team that previously generated functional bladders for patients and found multipotent adult stem cells in amniotic fluid.