How to Grow New Liver

A new experimental treatment could help treat end-stage liver disease – by growing tiny new livers elsewhere in the patient’s bodies. The technique, pioneered by cell therapy company LyGenesis, is due to begin human clinical trials in the next few weeks. The liver has a powerful regenerative capacity, able to repair itself from the constant damage it sustains as it works to rid the body of toxins. But alcohol intake or an unhealthy diet can impair that ability and lead to liver disease, the end stages of which can require liver transplants.

But the team at LyGenesis has been working on a creative alternative that would be much less invasive. Rather than replacing the liver, the technique would involve growing entirely new ones elsewhere in the bodymini-livers that can perform the same vital functions.

The process involves injecting healthy liver cells, taken from donated organs, into the recipient’s lymph nodes. There, they multiply and grow into functioning mini versions that can support the work of the remaining cells in the original liver. Previous tests in micepigs and dogs showed that the treatment improved their liver function, and can save the lives of many animals that would otherwise succumb to liver failure.

And now LyGenesis is preparing to test the technique in humans for the first time, in a phase 2a clinical trial. Beginning in the next few weeks, 12 adults with end-stage liver disease (ESLD) will receive batches of healthy liver cells. These will be delivered via endoscope and injected directly into the lymph nodes.

The trial participants will be split into three groups of four that receive different doses – either 50 million, 150 million or 250 million cells. It’s thought that for every 50 million cells a patient receives, they will grow one mini liver, meaning the highest dose group could end up with five extra livers. The LyGenesis team will monitor the patients for a year afterwards, assessing the effectiveness and safety of the treatment at the different doses.

Patients will need to receive immune-suppressing drugs to prevent their bodies rejecting the “foreign” mini-livers, much the same as those who currently receive whole organ transplants. However,


Bioartificial Kidney Frees Patients from Dialysis Machines

For patients with kidney failure, dialysis is a double-edged sword: while offering the promise of sustained life, it is an invasive procedure that is also dangerous, sometimes causing bone disease, high-blood pressure and heart failure.

A new device is offering hope for those requiring dialysis. Currently being developed by The Kidney Project, this bioartificial kidney implant could free patients from dialysis machines and even kidney transplants. Last week, scientists won a $650,000 prize for the successful demonstration of a working prototype—moving the device a step closer to potentially changing the lives of millions of people suffering from life-threatening kidney diseases.

The effort is led by Shuvo Roy, a bioengineer and professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and William Fissell, a doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The project includes scientists, engineers and clinicians from across the United States.


The device includes a hemofilter made up of silicon semiconductor membranes that remove waste products from blood and a bioreactor containing renal tubule cells that regulate water volume, electrolyte balance and other metabolic functions

Our team engineered the artificial kidney to sustainably support a culture of human kidney cells without provoking an immune response,” Roy tells Jannat Un Nisa of the Wonderful Engineering website. “Now that we have demonstrated the feasibility of combining the hemofilter and bioreactor, we can focus on upscaling the technology for more rigorous preclinical testing, and ultimately, clinical trials.”

KidneyX, a public-private collaboration between the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services and the American Society of Nephrology, awarded the $650,000 prize to The Kidney Project after the demonstration showed that how the new bioartifical kidney implant works without the need for the immune-suppressing drugs or blood thinners typically required with transplants, reports Michael Irving of New Atlas.