There are currently about 17,000 people awaiting liver transplants in the United States alone. This number far exceeds the number of livers available from deceased donors. On top of that, organ transplants are prohibitively expensive. In 2017, the cost of a liver transplant, including pre and post-op care and drugs to prevent the body from rejecting the transplant, was north of $800,000. A recent INVERSE article discussed a new lab-grown option that aims to tackle that waitlist and create a future free of organ donors.
The team behind the lab-grown livers started with skin cell samples and reprogrammed them into induced pluripotent stem cells. They then guided the cells to become different types of liver cells and seeded them into liver scaffolds. The researchers grew the mini livers in about a month, a process that normally takes up to two years in a natural environment. They were then transplanted into mice that were dissected four days later to see how well the organs were operating. The livers worked, but experienced blood flow issues around the graft. The team still has a ways to go, but this study served as a proof of concept.