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article imageSkin cells transformed into functioning liver cells

By Tim Sandle     Mar 9, 2014 in Science
San Francisco - Scientists have discovered a way to transform skin cells into mature, fully functioning liver cells that flourish on their own, even after being transplanted into laboratory animals modified to mimic liver failure.
The new study has used stem cells and has engineered a way to re-program them. This has allowed the scientists to generate a large reservoir of cells that could more readily be coaxed into becoming liver cells. The methods used a special set of identified genes.
Stem cells are biological cells found in all multicellular organisms. The cells can differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to produce more stem cells. In mammals, there are two broad types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells, which are found in various tissues.
Quite soon into the process the cells began to take on the shape of liver cells, and even started to perform regular liver-cell functions. To show that the cells really work, the researchers transplanted these early-stage liver cells into the livers of mice. Over a period of nine months, the team monitored cell function and growth by measuring levels of liver-specific proteins and genes.
Previous studies on liver-cell reprogramming, scientists had difficulty getting stem cell-derived liver cells to survive once being transplanted into existing liver tissue. However, the research team appear to have cracked this problem.
The research was carried out at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The findings have been published in Nature, in a paper titled “Mouse liver repopulation with hepatocytes generated from human fibroblasts.”
More about skin cells, Stem cells, Liver, Laboratory
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