A team from Massachusetts General Hospital, created successful grafts using rat cells.
Scientists initially flushed out living liver cells, leaving behind a tissue “scaffold”.
They then introduced one type of liver cells called hepatocytes which successfully repopulated the scaffold.
When these were transplanted into rats, alongside their normal livers, they functioned normally for short periods.
The technique of washing out and replacing cells is the same as that used when a windpipe made with the patient’s own stem cells was successfully implanted in Spain in late 2008 in the world’s first tissue-engineered whole organ transplant.
Liver cells have been grown in the lab, but the difficulty has been making them work as part of an organ and connecting them to its vascular system.
The team say their work could enable livers which are deemed unsuitable for transplant to be used as scaffolds.