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Transforming Skin Cells Into Liver Cells

The technology has existed for a while now to grow certain organs in a lab to be used as replacements for organs in which finding a donor may be difficult.

Those organs, however, were never complete copies — they were merely close replicas. Now, researchers at the Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco had announced that they’ve discovered a way to create fully mature liver cells.

The organs have only been tested in lab animals whose bodies have been modified to imitate liver failure, but the tests showed that the liver cells were able to thrive on their own without medical interference.

In an age of technological prowess where 3-D printing has jumped from simple manufacturing of everyday items, to creating space engines, food, and even houses, it’s believed that the medical field is 3-D printing’s next field to take over and innovate.

Imagine losing your liver due to disease or an accident. You travel to the hospital, and they take you to a room where you sit down, run through a series of tests, and a new liver is placed into the 3-D printing queue.

It’s not science fiction — it’s the medical future of tomorrow. You can already 3-D print utilitarian prosthetic limbs that closely mimic your former real-limb. Lab-grown limbs are the logical next step in medical evolution.

Prior to the use of skin cells in these tests, scientists used stem cell research as their foundation. However, after years and countless resources spent looking for a solution for the millions of people currently suffering liver failure, they ultimately turned to skin cells for the answer.

Dr. Holger Willenbring, associate director of the UCSF Liver Centre, and one of the leading researchers behind this discovery, said:

“Many questions remain, but the fact that these cells can fully mature and grow for months post-transplantation is extremely promising.”

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