Advances in basic hepatology have been constrained for many years by the inability to culture primary hepatocytes in vitro, until just over five years ago when the scientific playing field was changed beyond recognition with the demonstration that human skin fibroblasts could be reprogrammed to resemble embryonic cells. The reprogrammed cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), were then shown to have the capacity to re-differentiate into almost any human cell type, including hepatocytes. The unlimited number and isogenic nature of the cells that can be generated from tiny fragments of tissue have massive implications for the study of human liver diseases in vitro. Of more immediate clinical importance were recent data demonstrating precision gene therapy on patient specific iPSCs, which opens up the real and exciting possibility of autologous hepatocyte transplantation as a substitute for allogeneic whole liver transplantation, which has been an effective approach to end-stage liver disease, but one that has now been outstripped by demand. In this review, we describe the historical development, current technology and potential clinical applications of induced pluripotency, concluding with a perspective on possible future directions in this dynamic field.
- Cell Differentiation
- End Stage Liver Disease
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
- Nobel Prize
- Regenerative Medicine