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Reuters Health Information (2010-08-25): Scientists create liver cells from patients' skin


Scientists create liver cells from patients' skin

Last Updated: 2010-08-25 15:47:09 -0400 (Reuters Health)

LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists have created liver cells in a lab for the first time by reprogramming stem cells taken from human skin, paving the way for potential new treatments for liver diseases.

Cambridge University researchers who reported their results in the Journal of Clinical Investigation on Wednesday said they also found a way of avoiding the kind of intense political and ethical rows over embryonic stem cells that are currently hampering work in the United States.

"This technology bypasses the need for using human embryos," said Dr. Tamir Rashid of Cambridge's laboratory for regenerative medicine, who led the study. "The cells we created were just as good as if we had used embryonic stem cells."

Dr. Rashid said that despite 40 years of trying, scientists have so far never been able to grow liver cells in a lab.

Given a shortage of donor liver organs, alternatives are urgently needed, he added.

For their study, Dr. Rashid's team took skin samples from seven patients who were suffering from a variety of inherited liver diseases, and three from healthy people to act as comparisons.

They then reprogrammed cells from the skin samples back into induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells. Next they programmed these stem cells to generate hepatocytes. They used the same technique to create grow liver cells in the comparison group.

"Previously we have never been able to grow liver cells in the laboratory, so this should open up a whole new sphere of research," Dr. Rashid said.

"The cells exhibited properties of mature hepatocytes, such as albumin secretion and cytochrome P450 metabolism," the research team reported.

Dr. Mark Thursz, a specialist in liver disease at Imperial College in London, said it was a major step that may in future be a potential source of new liver cells for patients with liver failure.

Research work using human embryonic stem cells in the U.S. was put on hold on Monday after a district court issued a preliminary injunction halting federal funding for it.


J Clin Invest 2010.

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