Researchers use gene therapy to restore rat liver functions

    Researchers have used genetically
modified liver cells to grow in the laboratory and successfully transplanted
the lab-grown cells into rats.

    The cells, called hepatocytes,
are generally difficult to grow under laboratory conditions. Transplanting
of such cells has been done in humans before, but with limited success
because of the difficulty in isolating enough hepatocytes.

    The technique described in
the Science articles inserts a cancer gene that forces the liver cells
to reproduce quickly. Then when enough of the liver cells are created,
researchers treated the cells with an enzyme that gets rid of the cancer
gene and halts the growth of the cells.

    The researchers then injected
the liver cells into rats who had 90 percent of their liver surgically
removed. Sixty percent of the rats receiving the genetically modified
liver cells survived to live normal lives, while all animals in a control
group that didn’t receive the cells died within three days.

Reference:

Researchers
experiment with genetic liver therapies
. The Associated Press, February
18, 2000.

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