Imagine the number of people it would take to fill Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville … twice. That would be 110,000 people, which is roughly the number of people in the United States who are waiting for organ transplants. OrganDonor.gov says 18 people die each day waiting for an organ.
But what if we could grow the organs we need? That may happen one day, following breakthroughs like one reported in Japan this year. Scientists there were able to create a functional human liver using a mixture of three different types of stem cells. They’re the same kind of cells that work together in a process similar to what occurs during fetal development.
After only a few days in a petri dish, the “liver buds” were transplanted into mice with damaged livers. Various tests were performed along the way to make sure everything was working right. Researchers found that the transplanted liver buds improved survival in mice with liver failure.
Experts say the technique could one day solve the critical shortage of organs for transplantation. But others say don’t get too excited just yet.
Takanori Takebe, a professor at Yokohama City University School of Medicine, warned that using an organ grown from stem cells for a human transplant is at least 10 years away. That’s if there are no long-term side effects from engineered organs.
In the meantime, consider being an organ donor. Eight people on national transplant lists will benefit from each individual donor. For more: