Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Miracle Grow
06 June 2013

Miracle Grow

Our livers are resilient little machines. They clean our blood and digest our food, and at the same time can repair themselves following toxic damage. However, a liver can be damaged beyond self-repair by certain diseases such as hepatitis, leaving a need for interventions to mend our essential organ. Scientists keen to harness its rejuvenating ability began by searching for liver stem cells, a type of cell with the necessary special powers. By detecting a special marker, a molecular ‘flag’ that other stem cells hold, the liver stem cells were identified. Once isolated these cells were tricked to grow into a liver-like organoid (pictured), a mass of cells that function like a liver. The different colours show the organoid bears the authentic molecular ‘flags’ of a liver. Organoid patches could one day be transplanted into diseased livers, giving them a new lease of life.

Written by Georgina Askeland

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