Human Replacement Parts

Scientists at Cambridge University have developed a method for repairing bile ducts in human livers with parts grown in a lab. Initially, this technique has been used to recondition donated livers deemed unsuitable for transplant due to duct damage. Obviously, the next step will be to repair livers that are still inside a person.

Bile ducts act as the liver’s waste disposal system, and malfunctioning bile ducts are behind a third of adult and 70 per cent of children’s liver transplantations, with no alternative treatments. There is currently a shortage of liver donors: according to the NHS, the average waiting time for a liver transplant in the UK is 135 days for adults and 73 days for children. This means that only a limited number of patients can benefit from this therapy.

Science Daily

The new process involves growing “mini bile ducts” and inserting them into a liver. Using this process on donated livers will have the immediate effect of increasing the number of organs available for transplant. In the longer term, this process may reduce the need for transplants.

For those suffering from liver disease, this is an amazing day.


  1. University of Cambridge. “Lab-grown ‘mini-bile ducts’ used to repair human livers in regenerative medicine first.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2021.
  2. Fotios Sampaziotis, Daniele Muraro, Olivia C. Tysoe, Stephen Sawiak, Timothy E. Beach, Edmund M. Godfrey, Sara S. Upponi, Teresa Brevini, Brandon T. Wesley, Jose Garcia-Bernardo, Krishnaa Mahbubani, Giovanni Canu, Richard Gieseck Iii, Natalie L. Berntsen, Victoria L. Mulcahy, Keziah Crick, Corrina Fear, Sharayne Robinson, Lisa Swift, Laure Gambardella, Johannes Bargehr, Daniel Ortmann, Stephanie E. Brown, Anna Osnato, Michael P. Murphy, Gareth Corbett, William T. H. Gelson, George F. Mells, Peter Humphreys, Susan E. Davies, Irum Amin, Paul Gibbs, Sanjay Sinha, Sarah A. Teichmann, Andrew J. Butler, Teik Choon See, Espen Melum, Christopher J. E. Watson, Kourosh Saeb-Parsy, Ludovic Vallier. Cholangiocyte organoids can repair bile ducts after transplantation in the human liver. Science, 2021 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz6964

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