Liver diseases pose a major impediment of achievement of societal wellness in the contemporary society. Prevalence of liver diseases have left liver patients with little if any chances of survival. As an ailing liver is often covered by damaged tissue, healthy tissues are prevented from their functional operations in a body. The situation is aggravated by lack of sufficient liver donors to meet fast rising number of needy liver transplant patients. Chances of obtaining a liver transplant are placed at about 6 percent which is hardly enough to providing to ailing liver patients.
With an uncertain future on liver ailments looming, use of lymph nodes for liver regeneration could not have come at a more opportune time. Developed by Eric Lagasse, a stem cell researcher at Pittsburgh university, the study seeks to provide a solution to liver failures and bridging of liver donor-recipient deficit.
The study seeks to turn any of a body’s 500 lymph nodes into potential ‘incubators’ for regenerating a damaged or failed liver. A lymph node is a small oval-shaped organ tasked with consolidating immune cells to fight attacking pathogens in a body. According to the study by Lagasse, the experiment involves growing of miniature livers by taking healthy cells from a healthy body and inserting them in a patient suffering from a liver disease.
The study by Lagasse was aimed at investigating potential ways of overcoming impediments to liver regeneration in patients with a liver disease. This was found to be due to formation of a scar tissue that prevented an ailing liver from healing. An emerging evidence of the ability of liver tissues to survive in unusual body areas such as the renal capsule and fibrous layer protecting a kidney from trauma prompted Lagasse to probe further. The potential to outgrow liver cells from a diseased organ was a further motivator to Lagasse’s experiment.
The experiment involved use of test tubes and several mice in their terminal stages of the disease. When liver cells were implanted into their kidneys, the mice did not survive beyond their end stage liver failure period in mice. However, when injected into their bellies,they recovered energy and appeared healthy within weeks.
The insight from these findings prompted Lagasse to trace liver cells path patterns path of liver cells. In a surprising twist, liver cells were found to have developed into large nodules that aggregated to masses in lymph nodes that could suport an animal’s life.
Findings from cell path markers provided the answer behind the survival of the mice in the initial test. This way, lymph nodes were found to form an ideal ‘incubator’for liver regeneration . From the study, this owed mainly from their potential to support a body organ. In addition, their reach to supply of body fluids provides reliable nourishment for new cells as well as growth hormones. Based on these findings, some lymph nodes can be sacrificed from their traditional roles to grow livers especially on body areas with lesser spatial limitations such as the belly.
With Lagasse’s experiment on mice having proven a success, its potential for rejection has often been downplayed since animals are genetically engineered different from each other as is the case of DNA variation in human beings.
Potential for support of the study by emerging technology has given further hope to its application in human medicine. For instance, iPSCs involves reprogramming of adult stem cells for ease of transformation. Through this technology, doctors can grow healthy liver cells. This helps patients to ‘donate organs to themselves’. However, overcoming the compatibility challenge still does not erode the risk posed by the surgical procedures involved while using iPSCs.
In a quest to further refine the study, Lagasse aims to replicate the experiment in pigs and ultimately in human patients . If use of lymph nodes in growing livers for transplants in humans proves successful, Lagasse suggests that this would be an eye-opener for replication of the tests in other secretive body organs such as thysmus and pancreas.
In a caution to excitement at Lagasse’s findings, Medical experts led by Robert Lanza, term the findings novel though an exciting idea. This owes to the multiplicity of functions that a human liver plays which may not be exhaustively tested in mice.
Significant hurdles lie ahead for the study to be construed applicable to human application as conceded by Lagasse. However, these cannot dampen the potential for which use of lymph nodes in liver regeneration can contribute to human medicine. If proven successful, use of lymph nodes in regenerating liver cells would be a major milestone in human medicine.