Scientists create liver cells from patients' skin

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Washington, Aug 26 (ANI): Scientists at Cambridge University have created liver cells in a lab for the first time by reprogramming stem cells taken from human skin, paving the way for potential new treatments for liver diseases that kill thousands each year.

The new research has demonstrated how to create diseased liver-like cells from patients suffering from a variety of liver disorders.

By replicating the organ's cells, researchers can not only investigate exactly what is happening in a diseased cell, they can also test the effectiveness of new therapies to treat these conditions.

It is hoped that their discovery will lead to tailored treatments for specific individuals and eventually cell-based therapy - when cells from patients with genetic diseases are 'cured' and transplanted back.

Additionally, as the process could be used to model cells from other parts of the body, their findings could have implications for conditions affecting other organs.

"Our work represents an important step towards delivering the clinical promises of stem cells. However, more work remains to be done and our group is dedicated to achieving this ultimate goal by increasing the knowledge necessary for the development of new therapies," Dr Ludovic Vallier of the MRC Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, University of Cambridge, principal investigator of the research, said.

For their research, the scientists took skin biopsies from seven patients who suffered from a variety of inherited liver diseases and three healthy individuals (the control group). They then reprogrammed cells from the skin samples back into stem cells.

These stem cells were then used to generate liver cells which mimicked a broad range of liver diseases - the first time patient-specific liver diseases have been modelled using stem cells - and to create 'healthy' liver cells from the control group. Importantly, the three diseases the scientists modelled covered a diverse range of pathological mechanisms, thereby demonstrating the potential application of their research on a wide variety of disorders.

Dr Tamir Rashid of the Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine, University of Cambridge, lead author of the paper, said: "We know that given the shortage of donor liver organs alternative strategies must urgently be sought. Our study improves the possibility that such alternatives will be found - either using new drugs or a cell-based therapeutic approach."

The study has been published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. (ANI)

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