Liver Cells Made From Skin Cells
October 12, 2009

[At CAJ we are encouraged by some of the innovative minds working in technology and research. We do not support the “Dr. Frankensteins” of this world. But we do support and thank those who endeavor to alleviate suffering and encourage vibrant human longevity. H/T Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit]

We keep getting closer to being able to make needed replacement parts.Researchers converted human skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells and then converted the stem cells into liver cells that were able to function in the livers of mice.

Scientists at The Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have successfully produced liver cells from patients’ skin cells opening the possibility of treating a wide range of diseases that affect liver function. The study was led by Stephen A. Duncan, D. Phil., Marcus Professor in Human and Molecular Genetics, and professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, along with postdoctoral fellow Karim Si-Tayeb, Ph.D., and graduate student Ms. Fallon Noto.

This result shows that induced pluripotent stem cells can be converted into useful functioning cells. Still a lot of work to do to prove these cells are safe and effective in the long term. But this is a good step.

The Medical College research team generated patient–specific liver cells by first repeating the work of James Thomson and colleagues at University of Wisconsin-Madison who showed that skin cells can be reprogrammed to become cells that resemble embryonic stem cells. They then tricked the skin–derived pluripotent stem cells into forming liver cells by mimicking the normal processes through which liver cells are made during embryonic development. Pluripotent stem cells are so named because of their capacity to develop into any one of the more than 200 cell types in the human body.

At the end of this process, the researchers found that they were able to very easily produce large numbers of relatively pure liver cells in laboratory culture dishes. “We were excited to discover that the liver cells produced from human skin cells were able to perform many of the activities associated with healthy adult liver function and that the cells could be injected into mouse livers where they integrated and were capable of making human liver proteins,” says Dr. Duncan.

They refer to work done by Jamie Thomson which they built upon to produce these latest results. See my previous post on Thomson’s work in developing the ability to convert adult cells into pluripotent stem cells.

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