Researchers have found a way to reprogram cells from mouse tails to behave like mature liver cells, which appear to be able to repair damaged livers, according to a study published this week in Nature. The paper is proof of the concept that reprogrammed cells can skip the pluripotency stage and still hold therapeutic value. Cell biologist Lijian Hui of the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences in China and his colleagues expressed three proteins, and suppressed one, to reprogram fibroblasts from mouse tails into liver-like cells, which they then transplanted into mutant mice that were unable to detoxify certain metabolic intermediates. Five of the 12 animals that received the engineered cells survived, while all control animals died.
"It's really exciting," Paul Gadue, a stem-cell biologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study, told Nature. "If this work could be translated to humans, it could be very powerful."