Wnt-induced Lgr5 expression marks stem cell production in the liver

Published on February 26, 2013 at 6:48 AM · No Comments

New mouse research published in Nature raises hope that human liver stem cells can be grown, transplanted in a similar way

For decades scientists around the world have attempted to regenerate primary liver cells known as hepatocytes because of their numerous biomedical applications, including hepatitis research, drug metabolism and toxicity studies, as well as transplantation for cirrhosis and other chronic liver conditions. But no lab in the world has been successful in identifying and growing liver stem cells in culture -- using any available technique - until now.

In the journal Nature, physician-scientists in the Pap- Family Pediatric Research Institute at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Portland, Ore., along with investigators at the Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research, Utrecht, Netherlands, describe a new method through which they were able to infinitely expand liver stem cells from a mouse in a dish.

"This study raises the hope that the human equivalent of these mouse liver stem cells can be grown in a similar way and efficiently converted into functional liver cells," said Markus Grompe, M.D., study co-author, director of the Pap- Family Pediatric Research Institute at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital; and professor of pediatrics, and molecular and medical genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine.

In a previous Nature study, investigators at the Hubrecht Institute, led by Hans Clever, M.D, Ph.D., were the first to identify stem cells in the small intestine and colon by observing the expression of the adult stem cell marker Lgr5 and growth in response to a growth factor called Wnt. They also hypothesized that the unique expression pattern of Lgr5 could mark stem cells in other adult tissues, including the liver, an organ for which stem cell identification remained elusive.

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