Skin's stem cells can treat
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Patients with advanced liver disease can be
treated with stem cells taken from their own skin or blood in a breakthrough
that could save thousands of lives and cut transplant waiting lists.
Researchers have found a way to cheaply produce millions of the cells that can
be injected into the organ and help regenerate it.
"The technique involves converting skin and blood cells back to their original
stem cell state and then into liver cells. These were then injected into a liver
with cirrhosis," reports the journal Science Translational Medicine.
More than a tenth of the stem cells - the most basic form of cell that can
convert into any other cell - grafted on to the liver and started working
without any significant side-effects, according to the Telegraph.
The advantage of using stem cells taken from skin or blood - known as induced-pluripotent
stem cells (iPSC) - is that they are cheap and can be multiplied easily in the
Because they are from the patient there is also less danger of the body having a
reaction to it. The only other source of stem cells at the moment is from
embryos and this is fraught with ethical issues.
"Our findings provide a foundation for producing functional liver cells for
patients who suffer liver diseases and are in need of transplantation," said
Prof Yoon-Young Jang, at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in Maryland.
"Although the liver can regenerate in the body, end-stage liver failure caused
by diseases like cirrhosis and cancers eventually destroy the liver's
regenerative ability," Jang says.