Brazilian doctor develops gel to recreate human organs

. Jul 25, 2018
stem cells human organ transplants New technology uses stem cells
stem cells human organ transplants

New technology uses stem cells

In Brazil, 40,000 people (between adults and children) are on the waiting lists for organ transplants. Patients are placed on a national database, which is sorted by the urgency in which the patient needs the procedure. When a new organ is available, the priority is for patients in the same region as the donor. If the authorities can’t find a local recipient, the search is broadened to the whole country.

There were 24,958 transplants in 2016 and 26,200 the following year, an all-time record, according to the Brazilian Association for Organ Transplants. But the waiting line could be smaller. According to the association, relatives of potential donors refuse to donate the deceased’s organs in 43 percent of cases – in the rest of the world, that rate is at 25 percent.

The majority of those who are waiting on transplant need either a kidney (20,523), corneas (10,254) or a liver (1,203). So it might seem that having 260 Brazilians waiting for a heart transplant is a low number, but it is not. Today, Brazil is capable of meeting only 23 percent of the demand for these essential organs. Last year, 380 patients received a new heart, but the demand was much higher: at 1,638.

</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-6281" src="" alt="organ transplant brazil stem cells" width="1024" height="567" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Doctor Gabriel Liguori, a researcher at the Medicine College at the University of São Paulo and at the Heart Institute of São Paulo, has an audacious plan to help solve the problems with organ transplants around the world. Mr. Liguori and his colleagues at the <a href="">university</a> are creating a gel that could build new organs. What&#8217;s more, they want to be first in the world to construct a bioartificial heart, an organ grown in a laboratory from stem cells.</span></p> <h2>3D printing + stem cells</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The group of doctors is coming up with a way to synthesize human tissue with a <a href="">3D printer</a>. Instead of using plastics, the method&#8217;s feedstock will be a type of bio-ink, made from the combination of a hydro-gel and stem cells. So far, they have been able to successfully manufacture the gel &#8211; which has earned them the National Prize for Cardiac Surgery, <a href="">awarded</a> by the Brazilian Society of Cardiovascular Surgery. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So far, their research has been done only with materials from pigs. Mr. Liguori and his colleagues have succeeded in stimulating the animal stem cells into behaving exactly like they would if they were heart cells. In theory, it is possible to replicate any organ. The group is currently studying the use of the gel to build hearts, livers, kidneys, and lungs. However, they are still years away from experimenting on humans. He estimates it will still take ten to 15 years for that to happen. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Besides making organ transplants accessible, the research can have other uses, Mr. Liguori says. The gel can also help to create replica organs to study the effects of drugs on the human body, for example.</span></p> <hr /> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-6283" src="" alt="organ transplant brazil stem cells investments" width="1024" height="597" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Liguori says the next steps are to claim the <a href="">intellectual property</a> of the findings and develop organs at the Heart Institute laboratory. He also wishes to encourage his colleagues to use the gel to broaden and deepen their research. &#8220;We can&#8217;t work in all the areas medicine has by ourselves&#8221;, he says.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">His motivations for wanting to build an artificial heart go beyond his academic and professional life. Born with pulmonary atresia, a congenital heart disease, Mr. Liguori spent a great deal of his childhood and teenage years visiting hospitals. More specifically, the same Heart Institute where he now works. The malformation of his heart&#8217;s artery was corrected by a surgical procedure, but his passion for medicine and helping children with the same condition as his endured. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now a graduated doctor and a researcher, Mr. Liguori wants not only to ease the suffering of those who have pulmonary atresia but of all of the patients that hope for an organ transplant to save their lives.

Read the full story NOW!

Diogo Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a social scientist and journalist based in São Paulo.

Our content is protected by copyright. Want to republish The Brazilian Report? Email us at