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Semin Liver Dis. 2003 Nov;23(4):325-36.

Characterization of the differentiation capacity of rat-derived hepatic stem cells.

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Department of Histopathology, Imperial College London at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, United Kindom.


The liver in an adult rat maintains a balance between cell gain and cell loss. Although normally proliferatively quiescent, hepatocyte loss such as that caused by partial hepatectomy (PH) invokes a rapid regenerative response to restore liver mass. This restoration of moderate cell loss and "wear and tear" renewal is largely achieved by hepatocyte self-replication. Furthermore, hepatocyte transplants in rats, in which a selective pressure for the transplanted cells can be applied, have shown that a certain proportion of hepatocytes can undergo significant clonal expansion, suggesting that hepatocytes themselves are the functional stem cells of the liver. Fetal liver may also harbor bipotential stem cells capable of sustained clonal expansion. More severe liver injury activates a potential stem cell compartment located within the canals of Hering, giving rise to cords of bipotential oval cells that can differentiate into hepatocytes and biliary epithelial cells. Other cell populations with hepatic potential reside in the bone marrow; whether these hematopoietic cells can function as stem cells for the rat liver remains to be confirmed. Pancreatic cells have also been found to have hepatocytic potential.

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