In a major scientific break through, scientists have successfully produced liver cells from patients’ skin cells opening the possibility of treating a wide range of diseases that affect liver function. Loss of liver function is caused by several factors, including genetic mutations, infections with hepatitis viruses or by excessive alcohol consumption or even chronic use of some prescription drugs.
Now a team at the
has generated patient specific liver cells by showing that skin cells can be reprogrammed to become cells resembling embryonic stem cells. University of Wisconsin Madison
The scientists then tricked the skin derived pluripotent stem cells into forming liver cells by mimicking the normal processes through which liver cells are made during embryonic development.
At the end of this process, they found that they were able to very easily produce large numbers of relatively pure liver cells in laboratory culture dishes, the latest edition of the Hepatology Journal reported.
“We were excited to discover that the liver cells produced from human skin cells were able to perform many of the activities associated with healthy adult liver function and that these cells could be injected into mouse livers where they integrated and were capable of making human liver proteins,” Stephen Duncan, the leader of the team working on the project, said.
“When liver function goes awry, it can result in a wide variety of disorders including diabetes and atherosclerosis and in many cases cam be fatal” the scientists said.
“This is a crucial step forward.” The team leader said about the new development.
“This step would help in moving towards developing new therapies that can potentially replace the need for scarce liver transplants, currently the only treatments for the most advanced cases of liver disease,” Stephen Duncan said.