Micro-organ technology developed by Hebrew University scientist wins first-place Kaye Award
Artificial liver among its applications
Jerusalem, June 11, 2001 - A living bioartificial liver located outside of a person's body -- composed of an array of "micro-livers" which will function for all purposes as a temporary normal liver -- has been developed by a research team headed by Prof. Eduardo Mitrani of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For the invention of this micro-organ technology, Prof. Mitrani has been designated as the first-place winner of a Hebrew University of Jerusalem Kaye Prize for Innovations and Inventions, which was presented this month at the 64th meeting of the university's Board of Governors.
Colombian-born Prof. Mitrani, who until recently was the head of the cell and developmental biology program at the Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, has developed a revolutionary technology which makes possible the growing of micro-organs ex-vivo, using animal or human cells. These micro-organs work in the same manner as the actual organs within the body. The micro-organ technology, for which nine patents have already been registered through the Hebrew University's Yissum Research Development Company, has been licensed to three companies in the U.S. and Israel, which have already started to develop products.
Micro-organ technology allows virtually any type of normal cell to be grown in the laboratory under conditions similar to those existing within the body. Ordinarily, cells grown in laboratory dishes, isolated from their normal environment, lose some of their specialized functions.
However, experiments with cells taken from various organs, using the new technology, have shown that the cells continue to function ex-vivo and express tissue-specific genes for long periods of time. One practical application of this is the development, already under way, of an extra-corporeal (outside of the body) liver device, using liver micro-organs, which will be able to treat patients with liver failure until such time as a liver transplant might become available or the patient's own liver regenerates. The liver device, called aLIVE, has already been tested successfully on animals and is planned for testing on humans later this year. The micro-organ technology has many other applications. Under development is a bioartificial kidney, which would act in a manner similar to the liver device; a genetically engineered biopump, to be worn under the skin, which would supply any recombinant protein, such as growth hormone, to those patients lacking them; and an implanted, cell-based angiopump, which would cause the formation of new blood vessels from the patient's own tissues.
The Kaye Prizes for Innovations and Inventions at the Hebrew University have been awarded annually since 1994. They were established by Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, in order to encourage faculty and staff of the university to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential which will benefit the university and society.
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