Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Growing Human Livers in Mice

Why would you want to grow a human liver in a mouse?

I asked a group of teenagers that, and one young lady said, "So you can give them transplants. It would be important so you can save their lives."

I smiled and said, "Of course you would say that. You're so sweet. The answer is exactly the opposite. It's so that we can give them hepatitis."

Apparently, mice can't get hepatitis. So researchers began replacing their liver cells with human liver cells. They were able to replace enough cells to induce hepatitis in the mice.

The researchers were then able to cure the hepatitis with conventional therapies. However, conventional therapy makes the recipients sick for about 6 months, so researchers want to find better treatments.

The next thing they're going to do is actually grow the human liver cells in the mice using stem cells or "induced pluripotent" cells, which is what I really want to talk about.

Personally, I think one of the strongest arguments for evolution is the amazing things that scientists can do with cells and genes.

Listen, if someone can take snippets of invisible (to the naked eye and most microscopes) DNA out of the nucleus of a cell, put it in another cell, using viruses to inject the DNA into the cell, don't you think we ought to pay some attention to what they say DNA will do?

These people have made goats that spin spider silk, for heaven's sake!

We've printed living, beating heart cells with an inkjet printer. The standard method for producing insulin for diabetics is to give yeast the human gene for producing insulin. Now, we're growing human livers in mice.

When people who can do those things tell you that over time, nature can slowly turn one creature into another, it's really hard to argue with them.

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