Mini organs are the solution to organ transplants

Mini organs are the solution to organ transplants

An organ transplant is the only possible treatment for chronic diseases in which the organ stops working. It is estimated that more than 150,000 pieces are manufactured in the world every year, but they are not enough to cover the needs. Three-quarters of it is the kidney, which is the organ that most often needs to be replaced. The liver comes in second on the list, followed by the heart and lungs. The main limitation of this technique, which was first introduced 70 years ago, is a shortage of materials, because it is not easy to find enough donors, whether living or recently deceased, who can provide an organ in good condition. For this reason, alternatives have been sought for a long time, such as using animals as a source of materials. The latest achievement is the transplantation of small organs into lymph nodes from stem cells.

It is known that centuries before the modern era, skin transplants were already being performed to treat burns, but it was not until 1954 that it was shown that this principle could be applied to entire organs. The first successful transplant recipient received a kidney from his twin brother, allowing him to avoid rejection, which occurs when the body detects cells containing genetic material different from its own. In the 1960s, attempts were made to reduce the strength of the immune system to reduce rejection of transplanted organs, a strategy that is still used today, having been perfected, and is the key to successful organ transplants.

The liver is one of the most in-demand organs, due to a number of relatively common diseases that can lead to bankruptcy, such as hepatitis or cancer. Unlike the kidney, which can be partially replaced by a dialysis machine, we do not have a system capable of replacing it in its function of filtering toxic substances that pass through the blood, which is why a kidney transplant is often the only possible resort. The problem of finding donors for all these patients means that, for example, a thousand people who were on the waiting list for a liver transplant die every year in the United States.

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Recently, significant progress has been made in the field of xenotransplantation, which uses organs from other species to replace our own organs that are not working properly. For example, by genetically modifying animals to reduce the risk of infection and infection with latent viruses hidden in the genomes of animals, it was announced a few months ago that the transplantation of pig livers and kidneys into humans was the first time, although in 2011. In the case of kidney transplantation, the patient ended up Finally, he died last month. In the future, this could be an affordable way to get as many members as possible.

But in the meantime, alternatives are still needed. LyGenesis, a Pennsylvania biotechnology company, recently announced another way to achieve similar goals: creating mini-organs from stem cells transplanted into patients’ lymph nodes. This technique has already been proven successful in mice, dogs and pigs. This concept is based on direct injection into the lymph node of a mixture of cells from a donor organ, which includes a percentage of liver stem cells. These cells end up colonizing the nodules and creating small structures with an architecture similar to that of a normal liver. We have even seen that they are able to secrete bile acids, which is one of the functions of the liver, and they seem to acquire other properties as well.

The first human trial of LyGenesis’ small vehicles began last March. The results are not yet known, in contrast to the news that circulated a few days ago that the volunteer who received treatment has already recovered and been discharged. If all goes well, the stem cells will multiply in the lymph node in the patient’s abdomen where they were injected, and there they are expected to do their usual job of filtering the blood, taking advantage of the fact that the nodes are very well-perfused tissues. The study will be expanded next year to include an additional twelve volunteers, with results expected in 2026.

Currently, there are still many questions to be resolved. For starters, there’s no telling how long your little organs will continue to grow. In the animals, these symptoms stopped when liver function regained, perhaps because the warning signals that prompted the cells to reproduce disappeared. It is also not known how long it can work, whether repeated injections are needed to maintain it for a long time, or whether it will need to be injected into more than one nodule to replace all liver function.

Mini-liver technology will not solve all problems, but it will allow patients to wait for a donor liver to arrive and improve their health, which is one of the factors that limits their ability to access a transplant. The next step may be to try using stem cells from the patient’s own blood, which would allow him not to have to receive immunosuppressants. LyGenesis is also studying kidney and pancreas models using the same technology, with the hope of having the same amount of success.

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