Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)- funded scientists have shown that human liver cells produced from stem cells meet the current 'gold standard' for assessing drug toxicity, raising the possibility they could be used to develop new therapies for liver disease.
BBSRC and the Medical Research Council (MRC) funded Dr. David Hay (pictured) from the University of Edinburgh to develop a process for creating liver cells from human stem cells, and scaling this up so that shipment could be made to the USA.
In the United States, pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb paid for the work of Dr. Oliver Flint, which showed that the stem cell-derived liver cells detected up to 75% of 20 known liver toxins when incubated at various concentrations over a week. This was the equivalent performance to cells biopsied from human livers, the current option in these kinds of tests.
This robust cell-based model therefore faithfully predicted the potential for human drug-induced liver injury and could play an important role in developing renewable cell-based therapies for liver disease. Using stem cell-derived liver cells offers advantages over using cells taken from human livers, which are limited in supply and variable in performance due to isolation from low quality tissue fragments unsuitable for organ transplantation.
Illustration: University of Edinburgh.
BBSRC News Release (01/03/14)
Abstract (Stem Cells Translational Medicine; (12/27/13))