Bone marrow stem cells, when exposed to damaged liver tissue, can quickly convert into healthy liver cells and help repair the damaged organ, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
In mouse-tissue cultures, scientists found that stem cells, in the presence of cells from damaged liver tissue, developed into liver cells in as little as seven hours. They also observed that stem cells transplanted into mice with liver injuries helped restore liver function within two to seven days. The work was published in the June 1 issue of the journal Nature Cell Biology.
Bone marrow stem cells, also known as hematopoietic stem cells, have the ability to differentiate and develop into all other blood and marrow cells. There has been debate among the scientific community over whether these cells also can differentiate into other tissue types such as the liver, says Saul J. Sharkis, Ph.D., senior author of the study and a professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Some studies suggest that the bone marrow cells fuse with other types of cells, taking on those cells properties. But in this study, the researchers found, through highly thorough analysis with a microscope and other tests, that the cells did not fuse, suggesting that "microenvironmental" cues from existing liver cells caused them to convert.
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