What Happens When You Convert Fat Cells to Liver Cells?

Scientists have lately been making great strides in regenerative medicine as well as in growing entire organs from a few cells.  Regenerative medicine, however, is a mine-ridden field full of potential pitfalls but the rewards greatly outweigh the risks.  There are over 16,000 people waiting, just in the US per year, for a liver transplant but only 6,300 liver transplant surgeries are performed each year. In a study published Oct 21st in Cell Transplantation however, Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have developed a new way in which to convert fat cells from liposuction into liver cells. The new method bypasses an intermediate "pluripotent stem cell state" which drastically reduces the risk that the new liver will develop a tumor.  It also drastically cuts down the length of time that is needed to grow the organ, taking only nine days according to the study. Researchers at Stanford first performed an ordinary liposuction to obtain fat cells and then through their process were able to convert the cells into liver cells, the liver was grown, and then transplanted into mice.  The livers seemed to function well even though they were from a different species. Livers are the body's cleansing system.  It filters out waste products and breaks them down and also rids the body of toxic substances that, without a liver, could rise to incredibly dangerous amounts.  The liver is also able to re-grow itself to an extent but it cannot overcome liver poisoning or consistent alcohol damage.  In the past, liver transplants have been fraught with danger.  A person who has a transplants often takes immune suppressant drugs to keep the body from rejecting the new liver.  Gary Peltz however, a lead on the study, believes that this new technique will be much less complicated and the suppressant drugs will not be needed since the liver will be grown from the person's own fat cells.  

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published