How to Recycle a Liver

Liver failure is the 12th most common cause of death in the United States, so it's understandable that transplants are in high demand. The problem is that for the same reasons, damaged livers are much easier to come by than healthy ones. Fortunately, researchers at the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have found a way to clean up and revamp damaged organs so that they can find new homes.

Gabriella Mangino explains the process:

Basically the team grabs an unhealthy rat (for now) liver, uses a gentle detergent to wash away debris and old cells. Then all that’s left is a scaffold of a liver or its basic blood vessel structure. The stripped organ, or scaffold, can then be seeded with new cells, and that old rundown rat liver is made new again. The team working on this process known as decelluarization, was able to keep livers running for a 10 days in culture and for 8 hours when hooked up inside a rat—a feat that has never been accomplished before.

A couple hurdles still stand in the way—with the exposed scaffold, it's easy for blood clots to form, which limits the amount of time a recycled organ can last. But with some more research, people could eventually become their own donors.

Read the full article at Motherboard.

Photo by Brittany Sauser courtesy of Motherboard.