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Miniature Human Livers Grown In Lab 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the less-filling-tastes-great dept.
Zothecula writes "In the quest to grow replacement human organs in the lab, livers are no doubt at the top of many a barfly's wish list. With its wide range of functions that support almost every organ in the body and no way to compensate for the absence of liver function, the ability to grow a replacement is also the focus of many research efforts. Now, for the first time, researchers have been able to successfully engineer miniature livers in the lab using human liver cells."
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Miniature Human Livers Grown In Lab

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    • by mooingyak (720677)

      Man, one comment and already my idea for a post is redundant...

      FWIW, my line would have been "Scientists report that they're quite delicious."

      • by spun (1352)

        You have to be quick when the joke is this obvious...

        • *Sigh* (Score:2, Funny)

          by soloport (312487)
          I said LASERS! Sharks with LASERS... Not livers. LASERS!
        • by slick7 (1703596)

          You have to be quick when the joke is this obvious...

          I prefer liver with bacon and mashed potatoes...and beer.

      • Obviously OP has only seen the movie, not read the book. You could've come back with, "Don't you mean a big amarone?"

        !OT: I'm a bit surprised the extracellular structure remains so viable after removing the animal cells, but then again, my cell biology background is limited to high school, which mostly discusses the organelles, adding, "Spindles are important and nifty! LMAO BUTTS!" more-or-less.

        • Wow, see, I didn't even get this one right (that's how little it was discussed), but in my defense, I wasn't many worlds away. Centrioles [wikipedia.org] are structural bodies involved in generation of the mitotic spindle (separates chromosomes during cell mitosis), extracellular structures (such as cilia), and microtubules [wikipedia.org] that provide structure for the cytoskeleton [wikipedia.org].
          The cytoskeleton itself also contains microfilaments and intermediate filaments. Intermediate filaments are involved with extracellular structure through in [wikipedia.org]

    • Wouldn't fava beans be to big? Maybe a Petite Golden?

    • I would just avoid the paté at the lab holiday party if you ask me.

    • by Yewbert (708667)

      Came here for the "did they also grow some miniature fava beans and miniature chiantis?" question,.... leaving happy.

  • by Toe, The (545098) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:11PM (#34102710)

    So if they make me a miniature liver, does that mean I can only drink those little 8oz beers?

    • by pantheonwhaley (1933610) <pantheon.whaley@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:18PM (#34102844) Journal
      Yeah, and you can only go to minibars. The upside is that the ladies wear miniskirts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475)
      "So if they make me a miniature liver, does that mean I can only drink those little 8oz beers?"

      I don't think so..either you plug a bunch of them together for form normal function. Or, perhaps, all the growth hormones we injest from our food would help make it grow to full size once implanted.

      It must work, I mean...have you see the tits on young girls these days?!?!? They sure didn't have them like that when I was young. I'm talking grade school young too...ouch! Glad I'm not the father to one and have to

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HungryHobo (1314109)

        you just felt older at the time.
        at 13 you felt far older than a 13 year old looks to you now.
        plus it's the outlier which catch attention, not the norm.

        things change.
        people stay the same.

        it's like how old people are convinced that the world was a safer place in their youth and the teenagers far more respectful.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          Honestly..I don't think it is my imagination or perception on outliers.

          I've got friends with kids...in the 10-13yr age. I've gone with them to the schools to pick up their kids (boy and girl)..and I was shocked...MOST of the girls in that same young age group (my friend's daughter included)...all had freakin' tits. I'm not talking just developing, little ones..but full blow boobs of an older teen/young woman.

          Something is afoot...I really do wonder if it is all the hormones in foods today.

          When I was young

          • That's a cry that's been repeated forever.
            "Things were different in my day."

            Simple better nutrition moves puberty a few years it's true but unless you're very old that wouldn't be an issue.

            when you're around people all the time you don't notice gradual change the same way, the girls with the really massive breasts first got attention but the others would have just gradually changed and been already overshadowed by their counterparts.

            Never trust your childhood memories for perceptions of scale.

            There really i

            • Actually, there are significant concerns about early puberty. For example [bmj.com] just one reasonable reference in a quick search.

              Lots of potential boogey men here but it does seem to be a real phenomenon.
            • by hawkfish (8978)

              Simple better nutrition moves puberty a few years it's true but unless you're very old that wouldn't be an issue.

              This needs a cite. The canonical counterexample is Victorian England where the nutrition level was about the same as today among the upper classes and yet there was no corresponding drop in the age of menarche.

              • From the other poster who replied to my post:

                http://jech.bmj.com/content/60/11/910.extract [bmj.com]

                Over the past 150 years, the age of puberty onset has fallen substantially across many developed countries. Although trends are apparent in both sexes,1 the evidence in females (where biological markers are clearer) suggests that, for instance, in northern Europe the age at menarche (first menstruation) fell during the 1800s, then further reduced by up to 3 years over the last century (fig 1). Factors contributing to this fall include a combination of public health successes and changes in social structures. Thus, successes such as improved childhood nutrition and health status through reduction in childhood infections have been major factors accelerating the onset of puberty

                so unless you're very old it shouldn't be that noticeable.

          • by Patch86 (1465427)

            I suspect the explanation is far simpler- sexier-cut tops and padded bras.

            I don't know when exactly you were a kid, but it's no secret that younger teenagers wear more adult fashions than they did decades ago. Unless you're looking at a lot of topless 13 year old girls (in which case best not to admit it here) there's no easy way to tell without a good scientific study.

          • Artificial light gets my vote, poultry farmers even raise chickens under 24-7 light to decrease production time and increase egg production. The long exposure to light stimulates the pituitary gland, it's either that or cell phone radiation.

      • by vlm (69642)

        You mean a "Redundant Array of Inexpensive Livers"?

        • by gknoy (899301)

          And, because you can buy them in bulk for cheap, you can afford to buy more rubies.

      • Blame Ronald McDonald.

        http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/246239/cultural_body_size_trend_japanese_women.html?cat=69 [associatedcontent.com]

        Cultural Body Size Trend: Japanese Women Getting Curvier

        Japanese women aren't usually known for being curvy. The typical Japanese woman in most of our imaginations is stick thin and completely flat with no curves. The only option was for plastic surgery which is very common even for girls as young as twelve. They would get breast enhancements called 'gummi bears.'

        But recently more and more younger women are popping out with the natural "bon-kyu-bon" look meaning big breast, small waist and big hips. Now retailers in all major shopping districts rush to replace their clothing to fit a new generation of curvier women.

        Not so long ago most Japanese stores didn't even stock large sizes but recently more women have been complaining that the sizes in local stores are too small for them. This has made a big change in the clothing industry of Japan. Juicy Couture, known for its figure-hugging terrycloth tracksuits, opened one of its biggest stores in Tokyo last year. Tokyo's high-end Isetan department store, which used to relegate its bigger sizes to one corner, now prominently features larger items from designers such as Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg and DKNY.

        Before, the bras were the padded types. Now the best-sellers that are new to Japan are called "Love Bras," they show cleavage with less padding, meant for curvier women in their 20s.

        This could be good news for most Americans who often go to Japan. Before it was almost impossible to find sizes that fit westernized bodies but now bigger sizes are showing up in stores for people to buy.

        In the media more bustier women are popping out too. Before it was all about the cute and innocent look but recently pop stars such as Koda Kumi have been keep up with their fans and the other young adults by wearing sexy metallic bras and not much else.

        How do Japanese women physically differ than before? Today, the average Japanese woman's hips, at 35 inches, are around an inch wider than those of women a generation older. Women in their 20s wear a bra at least two sizes larger than that of their mothers. Waist size, meanwhile, has gotten slightly smaller, accentuating many young women's curves. The average 20-year-old is also nearly three inches taller than she was fifty years ago, according to government statistics, and the average foot has grown by nearly a quarter of an inch.

        Nutritionist point to the change in diet of women today. Before meals consisted of mostly fish and tofu but these days Japanese women are exposed to westernized foods consisting of red meat and dairy. All this extra protein and calcium has led to longer, stronger and fuller bodies. According to doctors the intake of extra fat tends to go to either breasts or hips in adolescent girls.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by houstonbofh (602064)

      So if they make me a miniature liver, does that mean I can only drink those little 8oz beers?

      Cheap date...

  • by bhcompy (1877290)
    So is Jack in the Box going to have a mini liver and onions to pair with the mini sirloin burgers with another awesome ad campaign to back in tup?
  • Now we just have to find a bunch of mini humans to try these out on ... I mean, we have to have clinical trials, right?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Replacing hepatic function is a wonderful thing, but in order to have the new livers not be rejected, they should either be grown from a small donation of the recipient, or have the primordial DNA blasted away in the donor cells, and have it replaced with DNA from the intended recipient. Lots of people have died from not having a functioning liver, and being able to replace a broken/dysfunctional one with a new one is serious big-time news.

  • First on the list is livers? I think not. Like the rest of us men, they wish for one thing: larger drinks.

    • by FatAlb3rt (533682) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:59PM (#34103452) Homepage
      I don't know why they'd be worried their livers - that's why God gave us two of them, in case one goes bad.
  • More on the topic (Score:5, Informative)

    by zrbyte (1666979) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:18PM (#34102842)
    Here's a TED talk [ted.com] from Alan Russell on the methods and details of this technology.
  • "I like the human race the way it is. I'm a person, not a collection of hunks of meat."
    ~Cmdr. Mike Halstead

    • That's just asking for a obligatory [xkcd.com].

      Now, is there any reason why a cloned person would be any less of a person than one born and raised? I can't think of any, we're made up of the same parts essentially.

      • Wow for the GP.

        That's like those hard-of-thinking gay marriage opponents that say it somehow devalues existing "traditional" forms of marriage: they conveniently forget that there are yet other forms of "traditional" marriage that don't jibe with their preferred form of marriage.

        So, just to be clear: the fact of a human clone doesn't make other humans any less human, just as the existence of other species doesn't make us any less alive.

  • The skills needed to grow one of these can't be cheap and that's before you've added on the RnD costs.
  • Does this mean we can drink more now?
  • by Last_Available_Usern (756093) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:27PM (#34103002)
    How often am I going to have to swap this out? Is there a MDBF (mean drinks before failure)?
  • Next to the wine coolers and six-packs.
  • This calls for miniature fava beans and miniature bottles of Chianti (made from miniature grapes).
  • by Guppy (12314) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:44PM (#34103252)

    Well, it looks like these mini livers put us just slightly under two orders of magnitude in size away before getting sufficient capacity to sustain a human (at the mentioned minimum of 30% normal function).

    Or does it? in many cases, liver disease is the result of a chronic and slow destruction that does not remove all capacity at a stroke; rather, the person slowly loses capacity until at some point it becomes insufficient to sustain life.

    I am hoping a partial transplant of even a micro-sized lobe might be sufficient to bump them back up to capacity. If we can get a big enough liver-oid to provide a few years function, that might be enough for an elderly patient to live out the rest of their normal life-span (or at least normal "health-span").

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      You can operate with a partial liver if you're nice to it. Perhaps they will grow a stub and insert it, and it will just grow into place. If it's made with your DNA it ought to know when to stop.

    • I am hoping a partial transplant of even a micro-sized lobe might be sufficient to bump them back up to capacity.

      I take somewhat of an issue with this. That's tantamount to people being able to say, "I'll just beat my liver up until it starts to die and then top it back off." You laugh, but when you see parents *driving* alongside their kids while they trick-or-treat you'll never again underestimate the laziness potential being housed in this country.

      • Surgery has enough of a risk factor just in itself, it discourages most all of this line of thinking. How many people do you know that ever consider surgery anything but a last resort?

        • Surgery has enough of a risk factor just in itself, it discourages most all of this line of thinking. How many people do you know that ever consider surgery anything but a last resort?

          Not Joan Rivers...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MaskedSlacker (911878)

          You sir obviously do not live in a suburban coastal community.

          Many people around here think of surgery as recreation.

    • That's why you grow 100 of the little bastards and shove em in there.
    • by icegreentea (974342) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @02:45PM (#34103986)
      There have been cases where people badly in need of a liver transplant due to failure have been put on artificial livers that took enough load off the livers/bought the patient enough time that their livers regenerated themselves completely. No need for transplant!
      • by sjames (1099)

        Those are experimental and outrageously expensive not to mention carrying significant dangers. They're also not terribly portable.

        They beat death by a fair margin but there's plenty of room for improvement.

    • Well I wonder if you could harvest healthy cells from a damaged liver, decellularize it and then use the salvaged cells to rebuild it back to full size.
    • You can normally get by without a lobe of your liver perfectly fine. So that's a minimum of 30% that you can write off.

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      If we can get a big enough liver-oid to provide a few years function, that might be enough for an elderly patient to live out the rest of their normal life-span (or at least normal "health-span").

      If you need a new liver you're already at the end of your natural life span (however you might want to refer to it).

      Personally I'm all for *extending* my natural lifespan with replacements and upgrades, but don't try and pretend it's anything else.

  • I, for one, welcome our new miniature liver overlords.
  • these mini livers, to share the load?
  • Larry Hagman took it. He's got five of them now! And three hearts! We didn't want to give them to him but he overpowered us!
  • Miniature Human Livers Grown In Lab

    If only I'd stuck to the miniature bottles of vodka all these years.

  • These will make excellent hors d'oeuvres.
  • I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
  • Synthetic organs from A Gift from Earth [technovelgy.com].

    "liverbeasts", "heartbeasts"... heh. Cute. Now if we could just get safe Bussard ramjets (or maybe hyperdrive).

    • by bricriu (184334)

      Teleportation booths, please.

    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      "Liverbeasts", "heartbeasts" and Bussard ramjets are all technologies that we have one or several ideas of how to implement. The hyperspace though is utterly without connection to reality. The closest that we've got is the (mathematical) physicists saying that it's not necessarily impossible. For teleportation booths, we don't even have that.

      Depressing, but true.

      Autodocs ... now that's an interesting case. Very interesting technologies are in development, and vastly interesting capabilities are being stud

      • by idontgno (624372)

        Not that I'm confusing Larry's work with reality, but as a (generally) hard-SF author his ideas are subject to changing technologies.

        Or, for that matter, the state of the science. The core of the galaxy was supposed to be exploding in chain hypernovas, remember? Kinda hard to reconcile with a supermassive black hole. I recall some mild handwaving in the shell story wrapper for "At the Core" in his collection Crashlander, but it just seemed to me to be (figuratively speaking) incomprehensible mumbling in h

        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          Niven has retconned to accommodate scientific reality before ("The Ringworld is Unstable!") but I still haven't seen a satisfactory explanation for the whole "galactic supernova" thing, since it's pretty much crucial to the "Puppeteer migration" thing.

          Better than "retconning" was getting the world in [ ahemm ] a spin in the early printings of Ringworld. But these things do happen.

          Maybe the whole "galactic supernova thing" is, like certain fiscal entities, "too big to fail".

          Equally maybe - perhaps the Puppeteers have noticed that there's a gamma-ray burster about to burst into light on our horizon. Would that be a sufficient reason for an attack of the OUTBEs? (Overwhelming Urge To Be Elsewhere)

  • That's great, but we need livers for regular-sized humans.

  • I'm not a doctor or medically trained. Since the liver is the one organ that can repair itself, wouldn't that mean that someone who needs a liver transplant would not be in a position to provide the starter liver cells to grow a replacement? If so, then it would have to be a donor, and anti-rejection drugs would need to be taken. So it's a way to increase the supply of livers available for transplant, not a way to grow one's own replacement. Still important, but not the gateway to immortality.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by malakai (136531)

      No, failure of the whole liver all at once would be exceptionally rare. Cirrhosis for example takes years to die from. Parts of the liver end up becoming 'scar' tissue, and cease to perform liver functions. At some point in time, if the disease isn't stopped and you fall below some threshold of healthy liver cells, you'll end up dead.

    • No. You can easily have functional cells in failing liver--liver failure just means below 30% of normal functioning. If enough cells can be scraped to grow a chunk that puts you back up to 30%, then voila, you live to drink another day.

  • At first glance, I thought that read, miniature humans grown in lab. I thought, cool..do want!

  • by Fr05t (69968) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @02:41PM (#34103946)

    Leprechauns rejoice!

  • Can't we just print them up with a 3D printer anyway?

  • At least, fake livers won't be in highest demand from *this* crowd.

  • Liver happens to be edible and quite tasty. If they manage to grow these livers in a vat on a commercial scale, they could significantly help with the world hunger problem. And, of course, the factory farm problem.

  • Now all we need are miniature humans (preferably grown in Liverpool) and we'll be set.

  • Based on their results, there's no reason to believe it won't scale up just fine. The small size was for the practicalities of research, not due to fundamental limitations of the technique.

  • yeah i just feel like being controversial today...

    so were these livers CREATED? or did they EVOLVE?

    Yeah, trick question, but rather than requiring an answer, its just there to make you think...

  • Perfect. Now all we need to do is shrinkray the patient and medical staff, implant the minature liver and regrow them.

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