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Bioartificial Livers Bring Researchers Closer to Solution for Organ Donor Shortages

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Researchers say they are close to their goal of "creating completely bioartificial livers" by applying human liver cells to animal liver supporting structures -- or scaffolds, according to MedPage Today.

As the number of patients in need of organ transplants continues to grow, so does the problem of finding enough eligible organ donors.  At the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases meeting, Pedro Baptista of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC said that recent statistics indicate that 109,000 people are waiting to receive organ transplants.  Of these patients, 16,000 are waiting to receive a liver.

During his talk, Baptista said that research has shown that "the cells really are able to recognize the native tissues and attach and engraft in those selected tissues."

The next step, he said, is to attempt to transplant the new organs back into the animals to observe and test function and survival.

Though Baptista hopes to oneday see "bioengineered livers that will be suitable for [human] transplant," he is not able now to forecast when these organs might become an available option to the general population.  However, he does predict that pig livers might make acceptable candidates for human transplants.

In the meantime, MedPage reports that newly engineered livers may be used for "drug discovery and development."

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