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Tissue Eng. 2006 Dec;12(12):3477-85.

Hepatic differentiation potential of commercially available human mesenchymal stem cells.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


The ready availability and low immunogenicity of commercially available mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) render them a potential cell source for the development of therapeutic products. With cell source a major bottleneck in hepatic tissue engineering, we investigated whether commercially available human MSC (hMSC) can transdifferentiate into the hepatic lineage. Based on previous studies that find rapid gain of hepatic genes in bone marrow-derived stem cells cocultured with liver tissue, we used a similar approach to drive hepatic differentiation by coculturing the hMSC with rat livers treated or untreated with gadolinium chloride (GdCl(3)). After a 24-hour coculture period with liver tissue injured by GdCl(3) in a Transwell configuration, approximately 34% of the cells differentiated into albumin-expressing cells. Cocultured cells were subsequently maintained with growth factors to complete the hepatic differentiation. Cocultured cells expressed more hepatic gene markers, and had higher metabolic functions and P450 activity than cells that were only differentiated with growth factors. In conclusion, commercially available hMSC do show hepatic differentiation potential, and a liver microenvironment in culture can provide potent cues to accelerate and deepen the differentiation. The ability to generate hepatocyte-like cells from a commercially available cell source would find interesting applications in liver tissue engineering.

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