Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Full of Bile
02 August 2017

Full of Bile

Bile ducts are thin tubes that run from the liver and gall bladder into the gut. They carry an unpleasant but vital fluid called bile, which contains molecules that help us break down and absorb fat from food. If the tubes get blocked or broken then the consequences can be severe. In the case of the rare childhood disorder biliary atresia, the bile ducts don’t open up into the gut properly. Bile builds up, damaging the liver and eventually leading to organ failure. At this point a liver transplant is a lifesaving option, but donors are scarce. This wiggly tube could solve the problem. It’s a three-dimensional bile duct grown entirely in the lab on a special molecular ‘scaffold’, which functions normally when transplanted into a mouse. One day this technology could be used to grow new bile ducts from scratch, avoiding the need for organ transplants and saving lives.

Written by Kat Arney

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