CHICAGO -- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The world’s leading clinical-based researchers in liver biology, regeneration and tissue engineering are gathering for the first-ever Whole Liver Replacement State-of-the-Science Summit in Chicago April 29-30 to share data and identify technical challenges that must be solved to engineer a whole liver for human transplantation.
The number of patients who die waiting for a donor organ has nearly doubled in the last 15 years and that number is climbing. In response, transplantation research is shifting away from immunosuppressive regimens and tolerance induction toward stem cell technologies with the potential to give rise to new therapies, including using a patient’s own cells to engineer a replacement organ. The liver – second behind the kidney in number of patients on the transplant waiting list – is widely considered the most viable near-term target for organ generation.
“In the past few years scientists have succeeded in using stem cell technologies to produce liver cells and tissue that exhibit limited liver function when transplanted into animals,” said Dr. Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez, co-facilitator of the WLR Summit and a principal investigator in the department of pathology, Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute and the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. “To move closer to the goal of assembling a whole liver for human transplantation, we want to form a transdisciplinary research consortium to enable collaboration in strategic areas such as integration of the bile duct, vascularization, anti-thrombosis and other biological and physiological challenges.”
The invitation-only event convenes over 20 of the world’s top liver experts from leading medical centers, universities and research institutes in Japan, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S. The WLR Summit also lays the foundation for the formation of the Whole Organ Research Community, which will serve as a scientific interface for the transplantation community. The resulting close scientific collaboration and data sharing is expected to accelerate progress and compound the value of public and private investments in the long-term goal of organogenesis.
“Transplantation science, stem cell technologies and tissue engineering have all reached a stage in development that warrants scientific collaboration to engineer livers for eventual transplantation,” said Dr. Jason Wertheim, co-facilitator of the WLR Summit and assistant professor of surgery in the organ transplantation department of surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Northwestern University. “Scientists are motivated to overcome the technical challenges, so the immediate task is mounting a concerted effort.”
Currently, the treatment for end-stage liver failure is transplantation. According to the most current data, it costs approximately $600,000 dollars to recover a liver, test and preserve it, and then transplant the donated organ. Once it’s transplanted, an additional $1.7M is expended – over an average 15-year functional lifespan of a donor organ – for immunosuppressant drugs, bringing the per-patient cost of liver transplantation to an estimated $2.3M1. In the United States alone, there are currently over 16,000 patients on the transplant list waiting for a liver. As of December 2013, approximately 6,500 donor livers were made available2.
“The WLR Summit marks the launch of a long-term, science-driven endeavor to engineer replacement organs that will require a new level of scientific collaboration and funding resourcefulness,” said Dr. Ronald Landes, president of SOS Solving Organ Shortage, the nonprofit organizing the WLR Summit. “Our mission is to support a focused effort to address the issue.”
About SOS Solving Organ Shortage
SOS Solving Organ Shortage is a global nonprofit organization working to solve the organ shortage by advancing organogenesis research. SOS Summits convene the world’s top researchers in organ biology, regeneration and tissue engineering to identify critical next-step research initiatives and foster transdisciplinary collaborations. The next SOS Summit – Lung Regeneration & Replacement – takes place January 2015 in San Diego. SOS adds its energies to the broad-based constituency of organizations already working to ensure life-saving organs are readily available. For the latest SOS news and information please visit www.SolvingOrganShortage.org or follow us on Twitter.