Scientists have successfully grown a miniature liver in a breakthrough which could have important implications for medical research and the future of liver transplants. The organ was grown from stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of newborn babies and is being hailed as the first step towards creating a functioning, full-size liver.
Dr Nico Forraz and Professor Colin McGuckin, both from Newcastle University, placed stem cells in a bioreactor that enabled them to multiply quickly before applying hormones and chemicals to encourage the cells to develop into liver tissue.
Dr Forraz told Metro: "We took a little bit of umbilical cord blood and then it was all about enhancing things that already existed."
The researchers hope that sections of artificially-grown organs could be used to rectify liver damage within the next few years.
Alison Rogers, a spokeswoman for the British Liver Trust, told the Daily Telegraph that stem cell technology represented "a huge leap forward in treating many diseases".
"With liver disease in particular it has the potential for tremendous advances," she said.