Japanese scientists have shown that they have created a functional human liver from stem cells as they say that it points to future where livers and organs could be created in a lab.
The development which was originally submitted to the international weekly journal of Science Nature last April and published on Wednesday (July 3), could be a giant leap forward for the field of human regenerative medicine.
The team of Japanese researchers say they have grown a tiny human liver, only five millimetres long, from reprogrammed human skin cells.
The research team, led by Yokohama University School of Medicine professor Hideki Taniguchi and associate professor Takanori Takebe, took pluripotent stem cells and mixed them with endothelial and mesenchymal cells - which form parts of blood vessels and other structural tissues - and implanted them into the head of a mouse.
The researchers say they were amazed when their cocktail of cells began forming into a three-dimensional lump which they say represents an early stage of liver development.
Taniguchi says there is still a long way to go before their research translates into a fully functional human liver. Among other issues, the team now need to find ways to scale up the liver.
But Taniguchi says he's confident they will succeed and hopes that 10 years from now scientist will be able to use a patient's own cells to grow a new liver.
Taniguchi says that in the future, stem cell livers will also change the way drugs are tested. By using a human organ, drug-makers will have a powerful tool to test the effectiveness of new drugs without having to go through the long and costly process of animal trials.
Presented by Adam Justice