I cannot imagine why anyone would take the news that livers have been grown from umbilical cord blood cells and turn it into a story on human embryonic stem cells. But, someone did.
Last year, we learned that UK scientists, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston used NASA technology to produce embryonic-like cells from umbilical cord blood cells. Later, Dr Nico Forraz and Professor Colin McGuckin of the UK announced that they had been able to induce these cells to differentiate into liver cells. Now, they’ve been able to grow the cells into “tiny livers.”
From the Scotsman.com in the UK,
Using some of the skills they obtained at NASA they were able to produce the miniature livers. These can now be used for drug and pharmaceutical testing, eradicating the need to test on animals and humans.
Professor McGuckin said the transplant of a section of liver – grown from cord blood – could be possible within the next ten to 15 years.
However, he said a full transplant using a liver grown in a laboratory is decades away.
Professor McGuckin said the use of mini-livers could prevent another Northwick Park Hospital disaster, where six human guinea pigs almost died after taking an experimental drug.
“We take the stem cells from the umbilical cord blood and make small mini-livers. We then give them to pharmaceutical companies and they can use them to test new drugs on”, he said.
“It could prevent the situation that happened earlier this year when those six patients had a massive reaction to the drugs they were testing.”
Professor McGuckin said this development could also mean the end of animal testing.
The ability to grow these cells into functional tissue is fantastic news. It will make Dr.Forraz and Professor McGuckin wealthy, even if it’s only used for testing drugs. If the tissues are developed into transplant-able organs, the wealth will be spread to the thousands across the world who suffer from liver disease.
I believe that the time estimate is far too conservative. Scientists have not learned what Ray Kurzweil has urged them to learn: the time from one discovery to the maturation of its use in human medicine and homes is much shorter than it used to be. These men and women need to learn to think in terms of months to years instead of decades.
However, for some reason, the last third of the article in the Scotsman went off on a tangent, lauding embryonic stem cell research. The article flatly states that embryonic stem cells can be differentiated into tissues and organs.
It’s not happening as fast as in non-destructive “adult stem cell” research.