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J Exp Med. 2007 Aug 6;204(8):1973-87. Epub 2007 Jul 30.

Human hepatic stem cells from fetal and postnatal donors.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Human hepatic stem cells (hHpSCs), which are pluripotent precursors of hepatoblasts and thence of hepatocytic and biliary epithelia, are located in ductal plates in fetal livers and in Canals of Hering in adult livers. They can be isolated by immunoselection for epithelial cell adhesion molecule-positive (EpCAM+) cells, and they constitute approximately 0.5-2.5% of liver parenchyma of all donor ages. The self-renewal capacity of hHpSCs is indicated by phenotypic stability after expansion for >150 population doublings in a serum-free, defined medium and with a doubling time of approximately 36 h. Survival and proliferation of hHpSCs require paracrine signaling by hepatic stellate cells and/or angioblasts that coisolate with them. The hHpSCs are approximately 9 microm in diameter, express cytokeratins 8, 18, and 19, CD133/1, telomerase, CD44H, claudin 3, and albumin (weakly). They are negative for alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM) 1, and for markers of adult liver cells (cytochrome P450s), hemopoietic cells (CD45), and mesenchymal cells (vascular endothelial growth factor receptor and desmin). If transferred to STO feeders, hHpSCs give rise to hepatoblasts, which are recognizable by cordlike colony morphology and up-regulation of AFP, P4503A7, and ICAM1. Transplantation of freshly isolated EpCAM+ cells or of hHpSCs expanded in culture into NOD/SCID mice results in mature liver tissue expressing human-specific proteins. The hHpSCs are candidates for liver cell therapies.

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