A company is about to grow new organs in a patient for the first time
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A patient with end-stage liver disease will soon benefit from a revolutionary experimental therapy. This therapy, developed by the company LyGenesis, consists of injecting liver cells into the lymph nodes, in which they will multiply until they create a miniature liver. The latter can thus support the function of the diseased liver and prevent the patient from succumbing to liver failure.
The liver is an essential organ of the body, which performs dozens of vital functions. It filters the blood and ensures the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins while secreting bile, essential for digestion. Not only does it help eliminate toxins (which are naturally produced by the body or provided by food), but it is also the place where the body’s energy is stored. He also has a powerful regenerative ability, which allows him to self-repair as he wears down while performing his duties.
An unhealthy lifestyle (alcohol, food that is too fatty and/or too sweet) can nevertheless alter its faculties of regeneration and lead to incurable diseases. A liver transplant should then be considered. The low availability of organs and the general state of health of the patients, however, limit this option. This is why the company LyGenesis, based in Pittsburgh, has developed an alternative treatment: there is no question of replacing the diseased liver, but of cultivating live — within the patient’s body — mini-livers capable of carrying out the same functions.
One to five additional mini livers
It should be noted that it is not a question of transplanting healthy liver cells directly onto the patient’s liver: in most cases, patients indeed present with cirrhosis and fibrosis, offering little chance of success of the transplant. We are talking here about creating an additional site for liver function, here in the lymph nodes. LyGenesis takes advantage of the evolutionary function of lymph nodes, which are efficient bioreactors for T cells in the event of an infection.
Tested on animals (including mice and pigs), the approach has shown spectacular results. The injection of liver cells each time resulted in the long-term survival of the animals. ” Over time, the lymph node completely disappears and what remains is a highly vascular miniature liver that supports native liver function, helping to filter the animal’s blood supply “Dr. Hufford told MIT Technology Review.
LyGenesis is set to test its cell therapy for the first time in humans — a Boston patient with end-stage liver disease, ineligible for a liver transplant. This will be the first volunteer in this clinical trial involving 12 adults in the same situation. These will be divided into three groups, each receiving different doses: 50 million, 150 million or 250 million liver cells, which will give rise to 1 to 5 additional mini livers – with scientists estimating that an organoid can develop from of 50 million cells on average.
The cells will be injected directly into the lymph nodes through outpatient endoscopy — a procedure that significantly reduces medical costs and risks compared to a full organ transplant. All patients will then be subjected to immunosuppressive treatment intended to prevent their body from rejecting these mini livers; they will be followed for a year to assess the effectiveness and safety of the therapy.
An immunosuppressive treatment that could become useless
The trials are expected to last less than two years. If the results are conclusive, LyGenesis scientists hope to obtain the same results with other organs, such as the pancreas, thymus and kidneys, and thus offer a solution to many life-threatening diseases.
This approach not only offers a much less invasive treatment than a transplant, but it also offers a solution to organ shortages. According to the Federation of Associations for the Donation of Organs and Human Tissues, in 2020, 26,000 people in France were waiting for a transplant, but only 4,421 transplants were performed – more than 900 patients did not survive. the wait.
Note that transplanted cells can be harvested from donated organs deemed unsuitable for transplantation and each can theoretically provide enough cells for at least 75 people to benefit from the therapy.
This therapy may soon be improved even further: LyGenesis recently announced a research collaboration with iTolerance — a regenerative medicine company — to develop an approach that eliminates the need for lifelong immunosuppression. The two partners are currently working on a product based on “a microgel immune tolerance platform”, which, combined with cell therapy from LyGenesis, could allow the growth of ectopic livers without immunosuppressants. The product is currently tested on animals.
Source: MIT Technology Review
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