Scientists in Britain have grown the first artificial liver from stem cells, which is the first step in a process which within 10 years could see livers being grown in a laboratory for human transplants.
The miniature livers are the work of Dr. Nico Forraz and Professor Colin McGuckin of Newcastle University who worked with NASA scientists in Houston in the U.S.
They were produced by using stem cells from umbilical cords and will be used for drug and pharmaceutical testing.
This will reduce the need for testing drugs on animals and people.
The tiny livers are the size of a small coin and are the first step in creating a full-sized liver.
In the process stem cells were placed in a bioreactor which is an instrument developed by NASA to mimic the effects of weightlessness.
This enabled the cells to multiply more rapidly and with help from hormones and chemicals the stem cells were encouraged to turn into liver tissue.
Dr. Forraz says they used a small piece of umbilical cord blood and then basically enhanced what already existed.
In recognition of their pioneering work in this project Forraz and McGuckin were awarded the science and technology award at the North East Universities Business Planning Competition last week.