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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2007 Dec;18(6):819-26. Epub 2007 Oct 2.

Application of liver stem cells for cell therapy.

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Centre for Diabetes and Metabolic Medicine, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, ICMS, 4 Newark Street, London E1 2AT, UK.


The worldwide shortage of donor livers to transplant end stage liver disease patients has prompted the search for alternative cell therapies for intractable liver disease. Embryonic stem cells can be readily differentiated into hepatocytes, and their transplantation into animals has improved liver function in the absence of teratoma formation: their use in bioartificial liver support is an obvious application. In animal models of liver disease, adopting strategies to provide a selective advantage for transplanted foetal or adult hepatocytes have proved highly effective in repopulating recipient livers, but the poor success of today's hepatocyte transplants can be attributed to the lack of a clinically applicable procedure to force a similar repopulation of the human liver. The activation of bipotential hepatic progenitor cells is clearly vital for survival in many cases of acute liver failure, but surprisingly little progress has been made with these cells in terms of transplantation. Finally there is the controversial subject of autologous bone marrow, and while the contribution of these indigenous cells to liver turnover seems at best, trivial, results from a small number of phase 1 studies of transplantation of bone marrow to cirrhotic patients have been moderately encouraging.

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