For many organs, useful function is not all that dependent on shape and location in the body. In the case of filtration or chemical factory organs, such as the kidney and liver, many of the necessary tasks can be carried out in varied locations, not just the one that evolution resulted in, and can be carried out piecemeal by small sections of tissue. For example, some years ago researchers demonstrated that it is possible to place functional liver, kidney, and thymus tissue into lymph nodes and have that tissue function correctly. The tissue engineering community is now well into the decellularization and organoid phase of development, in which small sections of complex functional tissue can be grown from a cell sample, and donor tissues repopulated with a patient's own cells. Why not grow organoids in lymph nodes, or place transplanted tissue into a patient's lymph nodes, where they can do some good? This line of work is now being carried forward to the clinic by the staff at LyGenesis.
LyGenesis, Inc. is an organ regeneration company enabling a patient's own lymph nodes to be used as bioreactors to regrow functioning ectopic organs. Our initial target organ for clinical development is liver regeneration, with a focus on helping patients with end stage liver disease (ESLD). Instead of one donor organ treating one patient, LyGenesis enables one donor organ to treat dozens of patients. Instead of major surgery, LyGenesis uses outpatient endoscopy for transplantation of donor cells, which grow and become a functioning ectopic organ.
A decade age, scientists in the field of ectopic transplantation research began a series of experiments that would form the foundation for LyGenesis. They discovered that hepatocytes (liver cells) transplanted into lymph nodes would not just survive, but thrive, organize and begin to function as miniature ectopic livers. The research confirms that it is possible to harness the body's lymph nodes as bioreactors for organ regeneration.
Strange as it might sound, it appears to work in mice, where the surrogate mini-livers made up for the missing function of a diseased liver. Tests in pigs have been encouraging, too, and now trials in humans could begin late in 2018 if the founders can raise about $10 million for their startup, LyGenesis.