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12:00 AM
Aug 13, 2007
 |  BioCentury  |  Tools & Techniques

Expanding the liver repertoire

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.

Hepatoblasts are bipotential progenitor cells that have been shown to differentiate into hepatocytic and biliary lineages. The cells contribute to the vast majority of organ repair in both rats and humans and can be isolated by immunoselecting for their signature biomarker - alpha fetoprotein (AFP).

According to Reid, most scientists have thought the human liver's growth potential comes entirely from the division of cells at later stages of differentiation and not from stem cells like most other organs....

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