Help us: Donate
Follow us on:



Building Artificial Bile Ducts to Treat Childhood Liver Disease


Researchers in Cambridge have created a new approach for creating and transplanting artificial bile ducts with the aim of treating liver disease in children and reducing the need for transplants.

The research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, shows how the researchers grew 3D cell structures and transplanted them into mice[1]. These structures then developed into functional bile ducts.

The bile ducts are long, tubular structures that carry bile secreted by the liver which is critical for helping us to digest our food. When these ducts do not function properly, such as in childhood diseases like biliary atresia, it can lead to a damaging buildup of bile in the liver.

Growing new bile ducts

The study results suggest that it is realistic to create and transplant artificial human bile ducts using a combination of cell transplantation and tissue engineering techniques. This is positive news indeed, as currently the only option for bile duct diseases is a liver transplant. These results give hope for better solutions in the near future.

The research team extracted healthy cholangiocytes – the cells present in bile ducts – and grew them into working 3D structures known as biliary organoids. The researchers transplanted these structures into mice and found that the organoids assembled themselves into intricate tubular structures similar to bile ducts.

Artificial tissue scaffolds

Next, the researchers investigated if they could grow biliary organoids on biodegradable collagen scaffolds. The plan was that these scaffolds might be formed into tubes and used to repair or replace damaged bile ducts in a patient.

Amazingly, within four weeks the cells had grown and completely covered the scaffolds forming perfect artificial tubes with all the features of regular, working bile ducts. They then used these artificial constructs to successfully replace damaged bile ducts in mice.

The researchers believe that their research could revolutionize the treatment of bile duct disorders. Currently, liver transplants are the only option, and with the limited number of healthy organs available, this is far from ideal.

In the future, it should be possible to create large amounts of bioengineered tissue that could be used to replace damaged and diseased bile ducts providing a solution that does not rely on donor organs.


This study and its superb results make us hopeful that bile duct diseases, such as biliary atresia and other related conditions, will have in the near future a practical solution that does not depend on organ transplants and the problems associated with them.

Also importantly, tissue engineering is also part of the toolkit researchers will need to combat age-related diseases and the damage aging does to the body. Developing bioengineered tissues such as this opens the door for us to replace whole organs, blood vessels and other body parts.

The field of tissue engineering is making excellent progress and these tools and techniques are as relevant to age-related diseases as they are to other diseases.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to support us to create more articles, events, livestream panels, talks and scientific advocacy, please consider becoming a Lifespan Hero.


[1] Vallier, L., Sampaziotis, F., Justin, A. W., Tysoe, O. C., Sawiak, S., Cardoso-de-Brito, M., … & Bertero, A. (2017). Reconstruction of the murine extrahepatic biliary tree using primary human extrahepatic cholangiocyte organoids.

About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 600 articles on the topic, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, as well as attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve is one of three recipients of the 2020 H+ Innovator Award and shares this honour with Mirko Ranieri – Google AR and Dinorah Delfin – Immortalists Magazine. The H+ Innovator Award looks into our community and acknowledges ideas and projects that encourage social change, achieve scientific accomplishments, technological advances, philosophical and intellectual visions, author unique narratives, build fascinating artistic ventures, and develop products that bridge gaps and help us to achieve transhumanist goals. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project.
No Comments
Write a comment:


Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.