Treating liver failure with stem cell-derived liver cells in the future

March 13, 2018, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
Treating liver failure with stem cell-derived liver cells in the future
Stem cell-derived liver cells. A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore

A research collaboration between A*STAR's Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology (IMCB), and the Stanford University School of Medicine, has discovered methods to efficiently generate pure liver cells from human stem cells. This could lead to more effective ways of treating liver failure.

The team, led by Dr. Ang Lay Teng and Dr. Bing Lim from GIS, Professor Kyle Loh and Professor Irving Weissman from the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Dr. Chen Qingfeng from IMCB, also successfully grafted the generated liver into mouse models which improved their short-term survival rate.

Liver disease has few treatments and imposes a substantial healthcare and economic burden1. Currently, end-stage liver failure can only be treated by . Due to the scarce supply of liver donations, more than one million patients worldwide die every year while waiting for transplants. To address this problem, the researchers aim to artificially generate large numbers of liver cells from human .

"Embryonic stem cells have the potential to turn into thousands of cell-types in the human body. The key is to understand how to turn them solely into liver cells. Generating these highly-pure liver cells from embryonic stem cells is an important step towards using these cells for cell transplantation," said Dr. Ang Lay Teng, Senior Research Fellow at GIS. She explained, "The process of generating highly-pure liver cells involves a series of steps. As the whole process of liver development is not fully clear, one major challenge we faced was how to precisely control the development of stem cells into liver cells."

"With almost unlimited development potential, embryonic stem cells can be made to develop into any other cell. The stem cell's development is similar to a complex train map. In this case, the generation of liver cells would be our destination. The crux of our research is to identify the six requisite stops and map the path needed for a stem cell to develop into a liver cell," added Professor Kyle Loh, Assistant Professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Ang continued, "Another major challenge was the difficulty in obtaining liver cells which were derived from human embryonic stem cells. These cells also needed to be capable of regenerating real liver tissue in animal models. However, our stem cell-derived liver cells were able to be successfully grafted into mouse models with liver injuries. This process improved their short-term survival remarkably. With progress, there is potential to eventually treat patients with liver failure in the future."

Dr. Ng Huck Hui, Executive Director of GIS, said, "The ability to generate large quantities of stem-cell derived holds the potential to sustain patients with liver failure while they await a full transplant. This holds great promise for helping to improve patient survival rates and alleviate the burden of on societies."

The research results were published in Cell Reports on 20 February 2018.

Explore further: Team discovers new liver cell for cellular therapy to aid in liver regeneration

More information: 1. Ali A Mokdad et al. Liver cirrhosis mortality in 187 countries between 1980 and 2010: a systematic analysis, BMC Medicine (2014). DOI: 10.1186/s12916-014-0145-y

Related Stories

Team discovers new liver cell for cellular therapy to aid in liver regeneration

June 6, 2013
Liver transplantation is the mainstay of treatment for patients with end-stage liver disease, the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, but new research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, published ...

Team finds a potentially better way to treat liver cancer

October 12, 2017
A Keck School of Medicine of USC research team has identified how cancer stem cells survive. This finding may one day lead to new therapies for liver cancer, one of the few cancers in the United States with an incidence rate ...

Tonsil stem cells could someday help repair liver damage without surgery

September 24, 2014
The liver provides critical functions, such as ridding the body of toxins. Its failure can be deadly, and there are few options for fixing it. But scientists now report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces a ...

Restoring what's lost: Uncovering how liver tissue regenerates

March 12, 2012
The liver is unique among mammalian organs in its ability to regenerate after significant tissue damage or even partial surgical removal.

Adult stem cells take root in livers and repair damage

May 11, 2011
Johns Hopkins researchers have demonstrated that human liver cells derived from adult cells coaxed into an embryonic state can engraft and begin regenerating liver tissue in mice with chronic liver damage.

Recommended for you

LincRNAs identified in human fat tissue

June 21, 2018
A large team of researchers from the U.S. and China has succeeded in identifying a number of RNA fragments found in human fat tissue. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine the group describes ...

Scientists solve the case of the missing subplate, with wide implications for brain science

June 21, 2018
The disappearance of an entire brain region should be cause for concern. Yet, for decades scientists have calmly maintained that one brain area, the subplate, simply vanishes during the course of human development. Recently, ...

Key molecule of aging discovered

June 21, 2018
Every cell and every organism ages sooner or later. But why is this so? Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg have now discovered for the first time a protein that represents a central switching point ...

Compound made inside human body stops viruses from replicating

June 20, 2018
The newest antiviral drugs could take advantage of a compound made not by humans, but inside them. A team of researchers has identified the mode of action of viperin, a naturally occurring enzyme in humans and other mammals ...

Research reveals zero proof probiotics can ease your anxiety

June 20, 2018
If you're expecting probiotics to reduce your anxiety, it might be time to put down that yogurt spoon—or supplement bottle—and call a professional instead.

Long-term estrogen therapy changes microbial activity in the gut, study finds

June 20, 2018
Long-term therapy with estrogen and bazedoxifene alters the microbial composition and activity in the gut, affecting how estrogen is metabolized, a new study in mice found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.