Stem and progenitor cell systems in liver development and regeneration

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The liver comprises two stem/progenitor cell systems: fetal and adult liver stem/progenitor cells. Fetal hepatic progenitor cells, derived from foregut endoderm, differentiate into mature hepatocytes and cholangiocytes during liver development. Adult hepatic progenitor cells contribute to regeneration after severe and chronic liver injuries. However, the characteristics of these somatic hepatic stem/progenitor cells remain unknown. Culture systems that can be used to analyze these cells were recently established and hepatic stem/progenitor cell-specific surface markers including delta-like 1 homolog (DLK), cluster of differentiation (CD) 13, CD133, and LIV2 were identified. Cells purified using antibodies against these markers proliferate for an extended period and differentiate into mature cells both in vitro and in vivo. Methods to force the differentiation of human embryonic stem and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into hepatic progenitor cells have been recently established. We demonstrated that the CD13+CD133+ fraction of human iPS-derived cells contained numerous hepatic progenitor-like cells. These analyses of hepatic stem/progenitor cells derived from somatic tissues and pluripotent stem cells will contribute to the development of new therapies for severe liver diseases.

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