Could Stem Cell Therapy Replace Liver Transplants?

Scientists have, for the first time, transplanted lab-grown stem cells, successfully restoring a brutally damaged liver's organ function.

Scientists have, for the first time, transplanted lab-grown stem cells, successfully restoring a brutally damaged liver's organ function.

This major win has taken scientists that much closer to potentially replacing liver transplants with cell-based therapies that actually regenerate liver tissue.

For the study, published in Nature Cell Biology, the research team evaluated whether liver stem cells — hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs) – could successfully regenerate tissue.

After transplanting the HPCs into mice that already had severely damaged livers, the researchers noted that the cells triggered regrowth in several major areas of the liver, improving the function and structure of the mice’s livers.

Naturally the next steps would be to study whether the same results in the mice models could be mirrored when using human HPCs, which could potentially mean cell transplants as a treatment option for liver failure.

Stuart Forbes, professor in the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK, said, “It will be some time before we can turn this into reality as we will first need to test our approach using human cells. This is much needed as liver disease is a very common cause of death and disability for patients in the UK and the rest of the world.”

As transplanted HPCs greatly contributed to restoring the functional parts of the liver, the study concluded,“HPCs are, therefore, a potential future alternative to hepatocyte or liver disease.”