Researchers have used single cell RNA sequencing to identify a type of cell that may be able to regenerate liver tissue, treating liver failure without the need for transplants.
In a paper published in Nature Communications, the scientists have identified a new type of cell called a hepatobiliary hybrid progenitor (HHyP), that forms during our early development in the womb. Surprisingly, HHyP also persist in small quantities in adults and these cells can grow into the two main cell types of the adult liver (Hepatocytes and Cholangiocytes) giving HHyPs stem cell like properties.
The team examined HHyPs and found that they resemble mouse stem cells which have been found to rapidly repair mice liver following major injury, such as occurs in cirrhosis.
HHyPs are anatomically restricted to the ductal plate of foetal liver and maintain a transcriptional profile distinct from foetal hepatocytes, mature hepatocytes and mature bile duct epithelial cells. In addition, molecular heterogeneity within the EpCAM+population of freshly isolatedfoetal and adult human liver identifies diverse gene expression signatures of hepatic and biliary lineage potential.
The authors also isolate foetal HHyPs and confirm their hybridprogenitor phenotype in vivo.
"We now need to work quickly to unlock the recipe for converting pluripotent stem cells into HHyPs so that we could transplant those cells into patients at will. In the longer term, we will also be working to see if we can reprogramme HHyPs within the body using traditional pharmacological drugs to repair diseased livers without either cell or organ transplantation," said the senior author.
New liver progenitor cells identified!
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