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Differentiating stem cells into liver.

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  • 1Center for Engineering in Medicine and Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Research involving differentiated embryonic stem (ES) cells may revolutionize the study of liver disease, improve the drug discovery process, and assist in the development of stem-cell-based clinical therapies. Generation of ES cell-derived hepatic tissue has benefited from an understanding of the cytokines, growth factors and biochemical compounds that are essential in liver development, and this knowledge has been used to mimic some aspects of embryonic development in vitro. Although great progress has been made in differentiating human ES cells into liver cells, current protocols have not yet produced cells with the phenotype of a mature hepatocyte. There is a significant need to formally establish criteria that would define what constitutes a functional human stem cell-derived hepatocyte. Here, we explore current challenges and future opportunities in development and use of ES cell-derived liver cells. ES-derived hepatocytes could be used to better understand liver biology, begin the process of "personalizing" health care, and to treat some forms of liver disease.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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