A Small Step Towards Artificial Livers

Early progress towards artificial organs results in tools that are often only applicable to diagnosis and research, as is the case here - but you can see the course of the future in their form and function: "A research group in Korea have developed a method to engineer artificial liver tissue using microfluidics. The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body. ... Transplants are [presently] the only way to compensate if the liver fails, therefore research is being carried out to develop a method to create artificial 3D liver tissues which can regulate specific functions. ... Chitosan is a natural polymer with a similar structure to the components found in the liver's extracellular matrix and has been widely used for liver tissue engineering. But it's mechanical weakness limits control of the shape and size of the tissue scaffold. ... [Researchers have now] developed a microfluidic method to allow thin, pure chitosan fibres to be prepared continuously without breaking. ... Using this method, the team has been able to create a bio-artificial liver chip by culturing [liver cells] on the pure-chitosan fibres. Tests show that vital liver functions including enzyme secretion and urea synthesis were carried out by the cells on the chip."

Link: http://www.rsc.org/Publishing/Journals/cb/Volume/2010/04/Microfibres_pure.asp

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