Emerging Organ-Making Companies
It seems lately that I’ve been writing frequently about progress towards artificial organs. Why not? Transformational Technologies Portfolio holding HepaLife (HPLF.OB: OTC BB) is leading the charge toward the world’s first artificial liver.
The chances of their ultimate success just got better.
BBC News reports that scientists at North Carolina’s Wake Forest University have developed a technique that allows new bladders to be cultured from a patient’s own cells then transplanted successfully into the patient’s body.
They’ve performed seven of these unique transplants. In some cases, the new bladder is still functioning years later.
The team is now working to grow organs including hearts using the technique.
Traditionally, bladder disease has been managed via reconstructive surgery. The procedure takes tissue from other organs and uses it to rebuild the bladder. Unfortunately, such surgery often leads to complications — which is hardly surprising, given the inherent incompatibility of tissues from different organs.
The Wake Forest team has tried a different approach. They remove a small sample of the patient’s own bladder, and then arrange the cells on a special bladder-shaped scaffold. The cells are provided with nutrition, and allowed to grow for seven to eight weeks.
Once the cells have grown to cover the scaffold, it is surgically attached to the patient’s own bladder, forming an extension. In at least some cases, the newly grown organ can totally replace a diseased bladder.
Dr. Steve Chung, of the Advanced Urology Institute of Illinois, called the work a “milestone.” He is particularly excited about the potential benefits to people with bladder cancer.
He said it could prove to be particularly useful for people with bladder cancer. There been no adverse side effects reported to date.
Even more significant, the researchers are now experimenting with 20 different tissues and organs including blood vessels and hearts.
What does this mean? First, we must consider the possibility that this new approach to growing organs could provide a competitive alternative to the artificial liver now being developed by HepaLife. This is always a risk with transformational technologies companies, and is one of the reasons I recommend you build a diversified portfolio.
Having said that, HepaLife has an “ace in the hole.” Not only does its artificial liver technology offer a potential replacement for diseased human organs, but it also provides a vital test bed for toxicology testing in new pharmaceutical development.
The liver is where most toxins are filtered out of the body. Current testing protocols require the use of living organs, and ultimately human livers must be placed at risk. HepaLife’s technology offers an alternative, and one that should prove very valuable to the pharmaceutical industry.
To your profitable future,
May 23, 2007
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