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The overall goal of the Artificial Liver and Liver Transplantation Laboratory of Scott L. Nyberg, M.D., Ph.D., is to develop cell-based therapies for the treatment of patients with liver failure and metabolic liver disease.

Dr. Nyberg is uniquely trained as a liver transplant surgeon and a biomedical engineer. His laboratory team has extensive expertise in the isolation and cultivation of primary hepatocytes for use in cellular therapies. The lab has designed and tested several bioartificial liver devices, including the current device — the Spheroid Reservoir Bioartificial Liver.

Similarly, the Artificial Liver and Liver Transplantation Laboratory uses genetically engineered pigs with a homozygote deficiency in fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase (FAH). These are the first large animal models of hereditary tyrosinemia type 1 (HT1) in hereditary metabolic liver disease.

Along with tyrosinemia, the phenotype of FAH-deficient pigs includes spontaneous cirrhosis, portal hypertension and possibly hepatocellular carcinoma. Additionally, these animal models may serve as in vivo incubators for production of human hepatocytes. Fetal and young FAH-deficient pigs may facilitate maturation of human induced pluripotent stem cells to hepatocytes.

This work is clinically significant in that it opens the door to new applications of individualized medicine and regenerative medicine. For example, growing a new liver from the patient's own cells may become possible through this research. Other applications include the development of a humanized bioartificial liver support device for treating patients whose liver is failing, either as a bridge to liver transplantation or to aid in spontaneous recovery.