22 March 2014
Scientists can coax induced pluripotent stem cells to become liver cells in a dish. But those liver cells don’t multiply well after transplantation and don’t perform like proper adult liver cells. To solve the problem, researchers have now transformed skin cells without taking them all the way back to the pluripotent stage. Instead, they used special proteins to reprogram skin cells to a slightly later stage, when they can still become various cell types. Then they used a cocktail of compounds to convert the cells into fully functional liver cells that proliferated extensively and performed well when transplanted into failing mouse livers. Shown are skin cell-derived liver cells stained for albumin (red), a protein produced exclusively by healthy adult liver cells. By demonstrating that human liver cells made in a dish work in living tissue, the research is a step toward patient-specific cell therapy for liver disease.
Written by Daniel Cossins