Monday, 25 February 2013

Researchers grow liver stem cells for the first time

In a new animal study, a team of researchers from the Papé Family Pediatric Research Institute and the Hubrecht Institute have managed, for the first time, to culture in-vitro large numbers of liver stem cells. The study has numerous implications, for example in the treatment of certain liver conditions like cirrhosis.

Many scientists have tried in the past to massively grow liver stem cells in the lab, let alone derive liver cells (hepatocytes) from them. In this study, the researchers managed to do both and even presented the therapeutic potential of these lab-grown cells. The study is based on an older study, again from the Hubrecht Institute and led by Hans Clever. In that study, Clever and his colleagues were the first to identify the presence of stem cells in the small intestine and colon using a marker called Lgr5.


Image showing the anatomy of the liver and gall bladder
Liver and gall bladder.anatomy

In the new study, the researchers used a modified version of Clever's method and using the Lgr5 marker they identified a population of liver stem cells that activates when the liver is damaged. They then isolated these stem cells and successfully grew them in vitro. Next, they took the cultured stem cells and transplanted them to a liver disease mouse model, where they further multiplied and differentiated into hepatocytes, yielding a modest therapeutic effect.

Markus Grompe, study co-author, said:

"We were able to massively expand the liver cells and subsequently convert them to hepatocytes at a modest percentage. Going forward, we will enlist other growth factors and conditions to improve that percentage. Liver stem cell therapy for chronic liver disease in humans is coming,"


The study is very promising, as the production of large amounts of human hepatocytes could help in many different liver-related fields like the following:
  • Drug metabolism and toxicity studies
  • Chronic liver conditions (e.g.cirrhosis )
  • Hepatitis research


Reference
Huch, M., Dorrell, C., Boj, S., van Es, J., Li, V., van de Wetering, M., Sato, T., Hamer, K., Sasaki, N., Finegold, M., Haft, A., Vries, R., Grompe, M., & Clevers, H. (2013). In vitro expansion of single Lgr5+ liver stem cells induced by Wnt-driven regeneration Nature, 494 (7436), 247-250 DOI: 10.1038/nature11826

1 comment:

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