Posted by: Anne | 2009/09/23


Hi - how far along is the research into using stem cells to ' make'  a liver for a liver transplant? And how long will it be before we can expect this sort of thing to happen in SA? Tks

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageStem Cell Guest Expert

The liver cell or hepatocyte is a complex cell which has to fulfil many essential functions. Experiments have shown that cells with hepatocyte properties can be derived from stem cells. However, the ability to produce cells which have all the functions of mature hepatocytes has still not been acheived. Once this has been accomplished, these cells will be useful for a number of diseases which affect the liver. This technology is not avaialble anywhere in the world yet, including South Africa.

One setting in which cells have been used successfully for treating liver disease is acute liver failure. However, the cells that are used are not stem cells but rather mature hepatocytes from a donor. Acute liver failure is associated with a high mortality, and the procedures which have used mature donor hepatocytes to bridge the patient over the acute phase, have significantly reduced this high rate of mortality.

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