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Reuters Health Information (2008-05-21): Embryonic stem cells fully differentiated into pure, mature hepatocytes


Embryonic stem cells fully differentiated into pure, mature hepatocytes

Last Updated: 2008-05-21 12:40:36 -0400 (Reuters Health)

SAN DIEGO (Reuters Health) - A team out of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland reports that it has successfully differentiated human embryonic stem cells into mature hepatocytes that produce adult levels of enzymes, proteins and other markers of fully differentiated liver cells.

This is the first report of researchers achieving differentiation yields that were around 90% pure. Previous studies have reported a range between 20% and 30%, principal investigator Dr. David C. Hay noted during his presentation here at Digestive Disease Week 2008.

Dr. Hay's team used the Wnt signaling pathway to induce human embryonic stem cells to differentiate into hepatocytes, which they confirmed on immunofluorescent staining and metabolic assays.

Among the proteins, enzymes and other hepatocyte-specific cell products the investigators were able to detect were alpha-fetoprotein, albumin, tyrosine aminotransferase and cytochrome p450.

Metabolic function was confirmed on urea synthesis, gluconeogenesis and p450 metabolism.

"This is the first time that we've been able to harness these cells," Dr. Hay said. "It is the first time that it has been reported that this level of differentiation efficacy has been achieved."

"Potential applications include bioartificial liver regeneration, a sort of liver dialysis. And the cell lines can be used by drug companies for high through-put drug screening, quickly measuring liver toxicity in a large number of drugs at one time. We can test 96 different tubes at a time," Dr. Hay told Reuters Health.

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