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Advanced Cell Technology Demonstrates Generation of Functional Hepatocytes from Human Embryonic Stem Cells

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Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. has reported for the first time a robust process for the generation of high-purity hepatocytes (liver cells). The research, described online (ahead of print) in the journal STEM CELLS, signifies a step towards the efficient generation of hepatocytes for use in regenerative medicine and drug discovery.

Moreover, the research represents another one of Advanced Cell Technology’s efforts aimed at the large-scale differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into critical replacement cell types.

In addition to demonstrating the efficient generation of hepatocytes in research published, the company has made progress in the generation of retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cells to treat retinal degenerative diseases and the generation of hemangioblasts to treat vascular disease as well as to create a large-scale and donorless source of red blood cells and platelets.

Two hallmarks of embryonic stem cells, their versatility and capacity for unlimited self renewal, suggest the cells could serve as a potentially inexhaustible source of cells for replacement therapy. As with other tissues, there is a scarcity of donor livers and hepatocytes, which is compounded by the low recovery and proliferative capacity of adult hepatocytes.

In addition to the cells’ potential use for the treatment of liver disease, hESC-derived hepatocytes could also provide a valuable model for novel pharmaceutical drug discovery assays as well as new drug metabolism and cytotoxicity screens, particularly because the liver is a major site for detoxification.

“We have established a highly-efficient method for deriving hepatocytes from stem cells that mirrors events in embryonic development,” said Robert Lanza, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. and senior author of the study. “Large scale production of hepatocytes using this method should greatly bolster their applications in basic research, clinical medicine and preclinical drug discovery.”