Geron Corporation has announced that it has developed standardized hepatocytes from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) that can model human hepatic drug metabolism.
Published in Cloning and Stem Cells (Vol. 9, No. 1, 51-62), a paper written by Geron’s scientific collaborators at the Roslin Institute describe an improved procedure to differentiate hepatocytes that exhibit characteristic hepatocyte morphology and express several hepatocyte markers, including albumin and HepPar1.
The hESC-derived hepatocytes also possess functional activities, including p450 metabolism, albumin production, glycogen storage and uptake and excretion of indocyanine green that are characteristic of normal human liver function.
“Geron’s hESC-derived hepatocyte technology presents a unique opportunity to address the lack of primary human hepatocytes for in vitro testing during drug discovery,” said Thomas B. Okarma, Ph.D., M.D., Geron’s president and chief executive officer.
“Pharmaceutical companies currently rely on animal models for preclinical metabolism and toxicity testing that are often not predictive for humans. These new studies provide the proof-of-principle that we could produce a standardized, limitless supply of hepatocytes which would provide the industry with a more representative tool for toxicology and metabolism testing of new drugs in development,” Okarma added.
Geron’s hESC-derived hepatocyte technology presents an opportunity to address the bottleneck in drug discovery by providing standardized human hepatocytes that are predictive of human metabolism and toxicology. Geron has issued patents covering hepatocyte cells differentiated from hESCs and methods of drug screening using hepatocyte cells differentiated from hESCs.
Through its collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, Geron Bio-Med, Geron’s U.K.-based subsidiary, is sponsoring two development programs: one to develop hESC-derived hepatocytes for application as a tool for predictive toxicology and as a treatment for liver failure, and another to develop hESC-derived bone and cartilage cell types for musculoskeletal diseases including osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.