Scientists produce liver cells from patients skin cells
- Scientists produce liver cells from patients' skin cells
October 9th, 2009
WASHINGTON - Scientists have successfully produced liver cells from patients'
skin cells, potentially opening the way to treating a range of diseases that
affect the liver's functioning.
The research team generated patient-specific liver cells by first repeating the
work of James Thomson and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who
showed that skin cells can be reprogrammed to become cells that resemble
embryonic stem cells.
They then "tricked" the skin-derived pluripotent stem cells - so named because
of their capacity to develop into any one of the more than 200 cell types in the
human body - into forming liver cells by mimicking the normal processes through
which liver cells are made during embryonic development.
At the end of this process, the researchers found that they were able to very
easily produce large numbers of relatively pure liver cells in lab culture
dishes, says a MCW-M release.
The study was led by Stephen A. Duncan, professor in human and molecular
genetics, cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, at the Medical College of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (MCW-M), along with postdoctoral fellow Karim Si-Tayeb, and
graduate student Fallon Noto.
"This is a crucial step forward towards developing therapies that can
potentially replace the need for scarce liver transplants, currently the only
treatment for most advanced liver disease," Duncan said.
Although the investigations are still at an early stage, the researchers believe
that the reprogrammed skin cells could be used to investigate and potentially
treat metabolic liver disease.
Liver disease is the fourth leading cause of death among middle aged adults in
the US. Loss of liver function can be caused by several factors, including
genetic mutations, infections by hepatitis viruses, by excessive alcohol
consumption, or chronic use of some prescription drugs.
When liver function goes awry, it can result in a wide variety of disorders
including diabetes and atherosclerosis and is fatal in many cases.