keep vitamins and nutrients pumping through the tiny "liver
Griffith has a vision for the future of healthcare. One
day, she says, tiny living body parts, or "chips," will be
laid out on the lab bench, each representing a major organ
in the human body. Want to know how a certain drug might react
with the kidneys, or the gall bladder, or the brain? Just
consult the man-made body on a bench.
this vision may sound like some freakish twist of the Frankenstein
tale, it's actually not too far from being a reality, and
the scientific implications could be enormous. Griffith's
team at MIT has been able to perfect a "liver chip" that mimics
the function of a real liver. The trick is building the right
structure in which the young, unformed liver stem cells can
feel at home to act just as they would in the body. So the
chip is made with tiny channels that mimic the blood vessels
of a real liver. As Alan sees first-hand, the chip has actual
liver cells growing successfully within its artificial structure.
As nutrients and vitamins are pumped through the chip, these
cells work to process them just as a real liver would.
Linda Griffith tells Alan her hopes for the future of
hope is that the liver chip will allow scientists to test
drugs and perform other experiments that would never be possible
with people, avoiding the use of lab animals as well. Why
start with the liver? It's the body's largest organ and essential
for many body functions. Each year, thousands of liver transplants
are required and, due to shortages, many never come to pass.
Thanks to the liver chip, liver health may be better understood
and improved, rendering transplants a thing of the past.
more on this topic, see the web feature:
Stem Cell 101