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Functional liver tissue grown from adult stem, progenitor cells

Researchers say the method of growing liver tissue could prove to be a treatment for end-stage liver disease.

By
Stephen Feller
Biodegradable scaffold, on the left, which was used to grow human tissue-engineered liver, on the right, by researchers at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. The researchers say the ability to grow tissue for patients with end-stage liver disease could prevent deaths from a lack of organ donors or complications from immunosuppressive drugs required for the transplants. Photo by The Saban Research Institute at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles
Biodegradable scaffold, on the left, which was used to grow human tissue-engineered liver, on the right, by researchers at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. The researchers say the ability to grow tissue for patients with end-stage liver disease could prevent deaths from a lack of organ donors or complications from immunosuppressive drugs required for the transplants. Photo by The Saban Research Institute at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Many end-stage liver disease patients die because of a shortage of donor organs, and those who do receive livers have challenging paths because of immunosuppressive drugs, but researchers may have found an effective method for growing new liver to circumvent both issues.

Researchers at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles generated functional human and mouse tissue-engineered liver from adult stem and progenitor cells, according to a study published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

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About 30 million people worldwide have liver disease, with more than 1 million dying in 2010 from cirrhosis -- which is only one cause of liver disease. Although some patients can be treated using partial quantities of functional liver tissue, this is not true for most and is not always effective.

Liver cell transplantation has provided some success, but researchers say even this only lasts about a year, and most attempts at growing liver tissue using induced pluripotent stem cells have failed because they do not become liver cells, or hepatocytes.

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In seeking successful methods of generating intestinal tissue, researchers at CHLA generated liver organoid units, or LOU, from human and mouse liver, implanting both in mice.

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In both cases, tissue-engineered liver grew, developing bile ducts, blood vessels, hepatocytes and other cells required for function, so there were cellular differences from native liver tissue, the researchers report. Human albumin was also detected in mice implanted with the cells and the tissue-engineered liver was able to provide some function.

The researchers say the method may in the future prove to be a therapy that can be personalized without requiring cellular reprogramming or immunsuppression to cure end-stage liver disease.

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"A cellular therapy for liver disease would be a game-changer for many patients, particularly children with metabolic disorders," Dr. Kasper Wang, a pediatric surgeon and researcher at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, said in a press release. "By demonstrating the ability to generate hepatocytes comparable to those in native liver, and to show that these cells are functional and proliferative, we've moved one step closer to that goal."

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