Scientists from Japan have augmented the cells of frog eyes and ears in a test tube, in the erstwhile step towards grow-your-own organs.The mode uses special cells taken from frog embryos called stem cells. These have the potential to develop into any specific type of cell in the frog's body - heart, skin, muscle and so on.
The major technique used by the team at Tokyo University is the use of a chemical to direct the development of the stem cells into particular tissue. This is the process that some medical scientists believe will eventually allow whole human organs to be grown in the laboratory for transplant. Such transplants would be engendered by cloning from a patient's own cells and would therefore have no problems of negation.
Makoto Asashima, who led the team, said the technology could provide an option to donor transplants. His team refined thousands of embryo cells in a retinoic acid solution for five days to draw ot various organs. Modifying the concentration of the retinoic acid led to the stem cells developing into different kinds of cell. Dr Asashima said a lower concentration activates a set of genes producing bundles of cells like eyes, while a higher concentration activates genes producing ears.
In a similar but simpler procedure, the researcher said he had previously grown frog kidneys and transplanted them into other frogs. Hideyuki Okano, a professor of neural development at Osaka University's School of Medicine, said Dr Asashima's work was remarkably conspicuous and could in due time help scientists reduce the confidence on donors for uncommon organs.