Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported in the Journal of Experimental Medicine the identification and successful expansion of human hepatic stem cells, a discovery that could speed the development of cell therapies for liver disorders.

According to Lola Reid, leader of the research team and a professor of cell and molecular physiology and biomolecular engineering at UNC, the paper is the first to identify human hepatic stem cells, the precursors to hepatoblasts. "For the last 30-40 years, people thought that hepatoblasts were themselves the stem cells," she said.