Press release Hubrecht Institute

Using mini-livers to study liver disease

30 November 2018

Researchers from the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and The Rockefeller University in New York, USA, have developed a method by which they can grow liver cells into mini-livers in the lab. These mini-livers can be used to study viral infections of the liver (such as hepatitis B and C) and hereditary liver diseases. 

These mini-livers might replace laboratory animals in studies on possible adverse effects of new drugs and may complement current approaches to liver transplantation. The researchers published their results in the scientific journal Cell on the 29th of November

Liver disease

The liver is a chemical factory with a variety of functions, such as the removal of toxins and drugs from the blood, the production of bile for the digestion of fats and the storage of energy in the form of glucose. When the liver is damaged due to a toxin, a virus infection or hereditary disease, its ability to perform these functions decreases. The search for treatment of these diseases is hampered by the lack of a proper laboratory model for the human liver.

At the moment, researchers have to use laboratory animals or cells derived from 'rejected' transplant-livers. Such human cells can only survive in the lab for a few days. Using this newly developed model, one can learn more about the human liver in health and disease and study the (adverse) effects of drugs more carefully. 

More information

Read the full article on the website of Hubecht Institute

Hubrecht Institute

The Hubrecht Institute – an Academy research institute – focused on developmental and stem cell biology. It encompasses 20 research groups that perform fundamental and multidisciplinary research, both in healthy systems and disease models. Since 2008, the institute is affiliated with the University Medical Center Utrecht, advancing the translation of research to the clinic. The Hubrecht Institute has a partnership with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL).

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