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Gastroenterology. 2010 Dec;139(6):2158-2169.e8. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2010.08.042. Epub 2010 Aug 27.

Hepatoblast-like progenitor cells derived from embryonic stem cells can repopulate livers of mice.

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Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology, Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Shanghai, China.



Hepatocyte-like cells can be derived from pluripotent stem cells such as embryonic stem (ES) cells, but ES cell-derived hepatic cells with extensive capacity to repopulate liver have not been identified. We aimed to identify and purify ES cell-derived hepatoblast-like progenitor cells and to explore their capacity for liver repopulation in mice after in vitro expansion.


Unmanipulated mouse ES cells were cultured under defined conditions and allowed to undergo stepwise hepatic differentiation. The derived hepatic cells were examined by morphologic, fluorescence-activated cell sorting, gene expression, and clonal expansion analyses. The capacities of ES cell-derived hepatic progenitor cells to repopulate liver were investigated in mice that were deficient in fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase (Fah) (a model of liver injury).


Mouse ES cells were induced to differentiate into a population that contained hepatic progenitor cells; this population included cells that expressed epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) but did not express c-Kit. Clonal hepatic progenitors that arose from single c-Kit(-)EpCAM(+) cells could undergo long-term expansion and maintain hepatoblast-like characteristics. Enriched c-Kit(-)EpCAM(+) cells and clonally expanded hepatic progenitor cells repopulated the livers of Fah-deficient mice without inducing tumorigenesis.


ES cell-derived c-Kit(-)EpCAM(+) cells contain a population of hepatoblast-like progenitor cells that can repopulate livers of mice.

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