A team led by Japanese researchers said Thursday that it had created a miniature multiorgan structure from human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, in a world first.

The one-centimeter structure consists of miniature versions of the liver, pancreas and bile duct, according to its report published in the electronic edition of the British journal Nature.

The team, which was led by Professor Takanori Takebe of Tokyo Medical and Dental University, confirmed the multiorgan structure to be functioning, with bile flowing from the liver through the bile duct.

In the research, the team developed two types of tissue from iPS cells, placed them side by side and cultured them in an attempt to reproduce the organ development process after fertilized egg division.

At the tissue boundary, retinoic acid was generated, causing the emergence of progenitor cells of the liver and pancreas. By culturing the cells, the team obtained hepato-biliary-pancreatic organ domains.

The latest study followed the 2013 announcement by Takebe and others of the creation of a miniature liver.

A clinical study is being planned to transplant miniature livers into a patient with serious liver disease.

The team is also considering transplants of the miniature hepato-biliary-pancreatic structure to patients with diseases that damage the liver and bile duct.

The multiorgan structure is also expected to assist with the development of new drugs, the team said.

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