Turning lymph nodes into livers

There's an exciting alternative to liver transplants on the horizon —growing a new organ inside the patient. According to Wired, human trials have begun on an ingenious new process that injects healthy liver cells into lymph nodes, and transforms those nodes into mini livers.

Biotech company LyGenesis tested the process on mice originally. Their chief scientific officer Eric Lagasse first had to identify an injection site, because healthy cells wouldn't survive in a failing liver. He landed on lymph nodes because they also filter blood, like the liver, and can expand. Also every adult has hundreds of them.

 Lagasse found that if he injected healthy liver cells into the lymph nodes of mice, the cells would flourish and form a second, smaller liver to take over the functions of the animal's failing one. The new livers grew up to 70 percent of the size of a native liver. "What happened is that the liver grew to a certain size and then stopped growing when it reached the level necessary for normal function," Lagasse says.

If human trials are successful, the grow-your-own procedure could be a major life saver. The waiting list for liver transplants is around 10,000 and that doesn't count the people who don't qualify because of other health issues. This new process wouldn't deplete the transplant supply because many donated livers don't match to a recipient, and one "reject"  contains enough cells to treat 75 people.

Previously: Orcas have learned how to kill great white sharks, to remove and eat their livers