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UCSD researchers create a home for liver cells on a silicon chip

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have created novel silicon chips with miniature wells similar to those in muffin tins that allow the maintenance of fully functioning liver cells, an important advance for scientists who hope to keep liver cells alive outside of the body.

Their achievement, which could lead to new treatments for liver disease and new methods of testing drug toxicity, will be described at a news conference at the American Chemical Society's 221st national meeting in San Diego.

The development of this dime-sized, porous silicon "liver bioreactor" was the result of a collaboration between chemists in UCSD's Division of Physical Sciences and bioengineers at the university's Jacobs School of Engineering, who suspected that normal liver cells might grow on finely textured surfaces of silicon produced through an electrochemical-etching process.

"This is a great example of how interdisciplinary collaborations can contribute to important advances for human health," says Michael J. Sailor, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD.

"We're exploring a new generation of devices in which we can maintain cells by controlling the architecture, temperature and chemical environment, and in which we can use sensors located on the same chip to monitor the health of cells," says Sangeeta N. Bhatia, a physician and an assistant professor of bioengineering at UCSD. Because previous research on porous silicon has been restricted to cancerous cell lines, the porous silicon bioreactor will provide an immediate benefit for Bhatia and her colleagues, who can now study and maintain normal liver cells harvested directly from animals.

It may also help in the development of future artificial liver devices. Today, five companies have artificial livers in clinical trials worldwide. Intended for patients with end-stage liver disease, t
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Contact: Kim McDonald
kimmcdonald@ucsd.edu
858-534-7572
University of California - San Diego
3-Apr-2001


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