Until recently, it was believed that hepatocytes could only be derived from cells of endodermal origin and their progenitors. But, in 15 May Journal of Clinical Investigation, Robert Schwartz and colleagues from University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA, show that adult bone marrow stem cells can differentiate in vitro to cells exhibiting hepatocyte phenotype and function (J Clin Invest 2002, 109:1291-1302).

Schwartz et al. cultured bone marrow-derived human, murine and rat multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs) on Matrigel in the presence of FGF-4 and HGF. In this environment MAPCs differentiated into epithelioid cells that expressed in a time-dependent manner, expressing primitive and mature hepatocyte markers. The protein-expression profile was hepatocyte specific. In addition, these cells also acquired functional characteristics of hepatocytes: they secreted albumin, urea and cytochrome P450.

"These adult stem cells are indeed a good source of cells for patients with genetic diseases of the...

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