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The liver makers.

Byline: By Nick Whitten

Scientists create first artificial organ to use in drug testing

Scientists on Tyneside have grown an artificial liver that is set to revolutionise the medical world.

A team based at Newcastle University have grown a tiny three dimensional liver, believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

Using stem cells taken from umbilical cords, Dr Nico Forraz and Professor Colin McGuckin from Newcastle University made the amazing breakthrough.

The two scientists also took a trip to Houston, Texas in the USA to work with scientists at NASA.

And using some skills they learned at NASA they were able to make tiny 3D livers which can now be used for drug and pharmaceutical testing eradicating the need to test on animals and humans.

And it is the first step in creating a fully artificial liver that can be used for transplants.

Dr Forraz said: "We have taken a little bit of umbilical cord blood and then it is all about enhancing things that already exist. And we have now built artificial 3D mini livers.

"We cannot build a full-sized one yet, that will take about ten years but this is the first important step.

"And we have excellent facilities in the North East to be able to make this happen.

"We expect this to really take off within the next 18 months or so.

"And our long term aim is to manufacture in the North East which will create many jobs. Once we start manufacturing our customer base will be truly global."

The two scientists have now co-founded a company called ConoStem and have teamed up with the Tyneside-based Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences (CELS) to look at marketing their work.

And their liver is already winning them plaudits after they scooped the science and technology award at the Blueprint: The North East Universities Business Planning Competition last week.

Mike Asher chief executive officer at CELS said: "We are very excited about the work they are doing at ConoStem.

"One of the most exciting applications for what they have done is in the field of drug and pharmaceutical research.

"Instead of having to do toxicology testing on animals or people, it can be done using their cells that they have grown.

"I think the work of ConoStem shows we are starting to understand the world of stem cells.

"Biotechnology is moving forward at an incredible rate. A whole range of possibilities are opening up before us which only a decade ago we would not have even dreamed about.

"It's really fascinating stuff."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 30, 2006
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