By creating diseased liver cells from a small sample of human skin, scientists have for the first time shown that stem cells can be used to model a diverse range of inherited disorders. The University of Cambridge researchers' findings were published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The scientists took skin biopsies from seven patients who suffered from a variety of inherited liver diseases and three healthy individuals. They then reprogrammed cells from the skin samples back into stem cells. These stem cells were then used to generate liver cells that mimicked a broad range of liver diseases as well as healthy liver cells. The scientists were able to model three diseases that covered a diverse range of pathological mechanisms.
"The development of patient-specific liver cell lines from stem cells is a significant advance in the battle against liver diseases, " comments Professor Mark Thursz, a specialist in liver disease and professor of hepatology at Imperial College, who was not affiliated with the study. "This technology holds promise in the short term by providing new tools to explore the biology of liver diseases and in the long term as a potential source of liver cells for patients with liver failure."