The new advances in one of the science hot field is the growth of liver buds and brain organoids from stem cells.
Growth of liver buds
In 2013, out of 16000 Americans who were awaiting a liver transplant, only about 7000 of them got the transplant. The situation is worse in Japan. This is what motivated Tanakari Takebe and his team of stem cell biologist from the Yokahama City University in Japan to come up with a solution. They developed liver buds by taking cells from the human skin, reprogramming them to nascent state, mixing them with two other types of cells and finally growing liver buds(about 5ml long).
The human liver buds were tested on mouse by shutting the mouses own liver and surprisingly, they lasted the mouse for two months carrying out the normal function of a mature liver for example sugar and drug metabolism.
Although the development is life changing, Takebe states that one liver replacement would need tens of thousands of this liver buds. Also, to avoid rejection, the buds should be grown from ones own stem cells or else use immune-suppressing medication to avoid rejection from foreign stem cell liver buds.
Growth of brain organoids
Jurgen Knoblauch and a team from Institute of Molecular Biotechnology from Austria developed brain organoids i.e. cells mimicking some brain region. This do not however fix neurological injuries.
To develop the organoids, they used adult cells which had been reprogrammed to embryonic state and embryonic cells. The cells were then placed in special culture, suspended in a gel and were then simulated by nutrients. Through this method, the team developed several cultures with different organoids such as cortex, ventral forebrain and the choroid plexus which had functional relationship with each other. For example, the forebrain makes neurons that connect to the cortex.
Organoids can be studied individually which can be very helpful in tracing the origin of development of certain diseases such as schizophrenia. Knowing how a disease starts may lead to its prevention.
How does it all work?
Dolly the sheep was the first breakthrough in the fusion of skin cell with an egg cell to make a clone. This method, the SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer), replaces the eggs nucleus with the DNA from the skin cell nucleus. It makes the egg behave as if it has already been fertilized. This produces an embryo almost with the same DNA composition as the skin cell donor. In humans though, this process is non-productive. Stem cells are taken from the embryos and grown into tissues.
It until 2013 when ShouKhart discovered how to make embryos from human eggs that human stem cells were developed. The process of growing stem cells is difficult and involves some steps like stimulation of reprogramming activity, giving the cells chemicals to coil and uncoil the DNA and use of some electric jolt to initiate cell division. This method does not lead to fetus production.
Unlike other methods used in stem cell generation, SCNT is the best because it is an exact copy of the donors genetic material which prevents rejection by the immune system. The development of purpose-build tissues is now the next step in stem cell field which will save many lives and heal diseases if it is achieved.
Stem cells are a key to stopping many struggles of patients who have organ failures or organ injuries. This is a life-saving field to all of the human race.
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