Scientists grow liver cells for the first time

Copenhagen: Scientists have discovered how patients can ‘regrow’ their own livers in a new technique that can help those waiting for liver transplants and liver diseases.

In the procedure doctors remove healthy cells from a patient’s own liver, grow them for up to a week in a laboratory — and then infuse them back into the liver where they continue to multiply.

There is also an enormous demand for livers, and doctors say that is likely to increase dramatically because of rising rates of obesity, heart disease and hepatitis C.

Until now it has not been possible to grow liver cells in the laboratory but the new surgical technique allows the new liver cells to grow rapidly when put back into the liver.

The method was reported to the recent United European Gastroenterology Conference in Copenhagen by doctors from the Hospital St Antoine in Paris.

Surgeons cut off some of the blood supply of the liver where the cells are infused, and this forces that part of the liver to work rapidly to make new cells. The procedure is known as embolisation.

So far, only animal trials have taken place, involving the removal of cells. But human trials are expected to start in the next few weeks on new-born babies with major liver failure who might otherwise die.