Two Bright Lights
At this time there about 16,000 Americans awaiting liver transplants. This year only about 7000 will receive them due to a shortage of viable livers.
A team in Japan, where only 1 in 10 patients needing a liver will get one, described the beginning to generating livers from stem cells. The group were able to ‘reprogram' human skin cells into embryonic cells (which are often used in stem cell research as they are able to be coaxed into almost any type of cells). After combining these cells with two other types of cells, the new cells organized themselves into three-dimensional cells with blood vessels. When transplanted into a mouse, the cells exhibited many (but not all) of the functions of a liver.
At this time, a number of problems must be solved before an "off the shelf" liver is ready for humans. One of these is the size of these "liver buds." They are about 5 mm. long and too large to infuse into the blood stream. The missing functions of the human liver will need to be included. It is, however, an exciting step.
The FDA has authorized Investigational New Drug application for clinical testing of the human neural stem cells as a treatment for spinal cord injury. As a first action under this IND, the Company is working to open U.S. sites for its Phase 1/2 clinical trial for chronic spinal cord injury, which is currently underway in Switzerland and Canada. With the IND, the study will be open in the US. At this time there are seven patients being treated with the reprogrammed stem cells.