An Interview With a Tissue Engineer

Smart Planet interviews one of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine researchers: "The miniature livers are a step toward achieving a transplant-able size liver. That's our goal. We need to start small in order to understand all the technical issues we will encounter as we scale up. These miniature livers can be used for drug screening. Drug screening and toxicity screening are being done on liver cells grown in the laboratory or on laboratory animals. These miniature livers will provide the closest individual system to test drugs in the laboratory. ... We have extended that functional phase [of the miniature livers] to three weeks. That's in the laboratory. We would now put these livers in rodents and see how they function. Our goal is to create a model in a rodent of a liver disease. These livers will rescue the rodents from the liver disease. ... [Because of media attention], the public starts developing hope and hype around these discoveries. It's not that we don't want people to develop hope. But with that comes caution. How long will it take us to develop the technology of getting enough cells [and] the technology of repopulating larger organs with those cells? And once we do that, how safe will these organs be for human use? Even after we confirm they pose no harm to the patient, how functional will they be and for how long? We need to consider all of that as we develop this technology for clinical use. Only once we accomplish all of these tests of toxicity, safety [and] functionality can we say we have succeeded."



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