Health News

The Frankenstein Liver

Since the dawn of modern age, man has developed an unusual desire, a desire to have godly power in his own hands. A power to create, change and destroy. But the greatest conquest without any doubt has been to create LIFE itself. The unnatural birth of Dolly the sheep through simple cloning shook our understanding of biology almost two decades ago. This successful experiment in a way gave us a hint that the creation of life is not an impossible task. Although life produced by such means has a lot of imperfections but still this was one of the greatest milestones in the history of scientific achievement.

We all live in a world that thrives on theism. History of human evolution has proved that Man needs to believe in a godly figure to sustain a healthy community. And in any religion or theological school of thought “The miracle of creation of life is an attribute of a heavenly figure and not by a human of any sorts”. So Dolly the sheep and all such creations were described as Abominations and by Men of God, this unholy practice was banned before it could even take its baby steps to progress. Because man should believe in the ultimate sovereignty of God for better.

This prohibition does not mean that such advanced techniques cannot be used for the welfare of mankind. This experiment also gave a spark to the idea that if we can create a live organism, why can’t we create a live organ? Since then efforts have been made to design such an invitro organoid that would actively perform its functions. But this is a tough task and no successful results were reported until quite recently medical engineers and healthcare biotechnologists from MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) claim that they have created live liver tissue that actively responds to all environmental, chemical and biological variations.

This microfluidic device has two micro inlets from where insulin and glucagon are introduced in it. The whole liver is a combination of many hepatocytes that have a variety of functions according to their location and nature e.g. hepatocytes at venous end are efficient in glucose storage while those at arterial end actively take-up glucose. In order to create a system that mimics the action of liver, the research team has designed a device in which different types of hormones, enzymes, proteins and toxins are distributed along 20 to 40 cell wide sample of this way the effects of these agents on different areas of this synthetic liver is different e.g. if one region performs glycogen storage, the other region performs alcohol degradation and a third region may act as a ground to observe toxic effects of acetaminophen.

The leading author of the page Dr William McCarty says “Our goal with this project was to create a liver tissue construct that responds to toxins the same way the liver in your body does”. Scientists have been trying to create liver models for last forty years but all of these models ignored the complex metabolic phenomena that takes place inside different regions of liver. However this newly designed liver on chip has following practical applications:

  • It can lead to a better understanding of the anatomical complexity of human liver.
  • It can help in better comprehension of liver metabolism and defects related to it.
  • It can vividly show the effects of different drugs and toxins on different regions of liver and how these agents may affect the human body as a whole
  • It can help us to identify and treat different diseases of liver e.g. hepatitis and can tell us the mode of action of different pathogens inside liver.

This remarkable invention no doubt has opened the new gates of discourse in the field of biology and is an exquisite work of science of this century.





About the author

Waleed Sohail Chohan

Waleed Sohail Chohan is currently finishing his BS from University of Gujrat. He is currently Biology Decoded's Director of Media Team and President of our Gujranwala Headquarters.