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Stem cells as a cell source of liver regeneration and a tool for understanding liver carcinogenesis
Embryonic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells, which reside in adult tissues, are very important cell sources in regenerative medicine. Over the past 10 years, we have reported that various types of stem cells have the potential to differentiate into liver parenchymal cells, hepatocytes. Thus, it may be possible that stem cell-derived hepatocytes can be used for the source of transplantation treatment of liver failure, instead of liver transplantation. Currently we are trying to create functional hepatocytes that can be applied to transplantation, by focusing on mesenchymal stem cells isolated from human adipose tissue.
Recently, we revealed that mature hepatocytes can be reprogrammed into bipotential progenitor cells in vitro. This technology is a small molecule combination-based method that can effectively and accurately produce liver progenitor cells, with self-renewal ability without genetic modifications, and which were termed chemically induced liver progenitors (CLiPs). Owing to the technical accessibility of hepatic induction from CLiPs, it is expected to be applied to regenerative medicine. We also apply this unique system for the research toward the elucidation of genetic mechanisms underlying liver carcinogenesis, as well as studying whether this approach is applicable for reprogramming cells of other organs, such as pancreas.