Six Steps To Turn Stem Cells Into Liver Cells

Scientists have devised a method to generate large numbers of pure liver cells from stem cells.

AsianScientist (Mar. 20, 2018) – In a study published in Cell Reports, researchers in Singapore and the US have discovered methods to efficiently generate pure liver cells from human stem cells. This could lead to more effective ways of treating liver failure.

Liver disease has few treatments and imposes a substantial healthcare and economic burden. Currently, end-stage liver failure can only be treated by liver transplants. Due to the scarce supply of liver donations, more than one million patients worldwide die every year while waiting for transplants.

In this study, a research group led by Dr. Ang Lay Teng and Dr. Lim Bing from the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) generated large numbers of liver cells from human stem cells.

“Embryonic stem cells have the potential to turn into thousands of cell-types in the human body. The key is to understand how to turn them solely into liver cells. Generating these highly-pure liver cells from embryonic stem cells is an important step towards using these cells for cell transplantation,” said Ang.

“The process of generating highly-pure liver cells involves a series of steps. As the whole process of liver development is not fully clear, one major challenge we faced was how to precisely control the development of stem cells into liver cells,” she added.

Study co-author Kyle Loh, an assistant professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, noted that the crux of the research was the identification of six requisite stops in the path needed for a stem cell to develop into a liver cell.

The researchers also found that their stem cell-derived liver cells were able to be successfully grafted into mouse models with liver injuries. This process improved the short-term survival of the mice.

“The ability to generate large quantities of stem-cell derived liver cells holds the potential to sustain patients with liver failure while they await a full liver transplant. This holds great promise for helping to improve patient survival rates and alleviate the burden of liver failure on societies,” said Dr. Ng Huck Hui, Executive Director of GIS.

The article can be found at: Ang et al. (2018) A Roadmap for Human Liver Differentiation from Pluripotent Stem Cells.


Source: A*STAR; Photo: Shutterstock.
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