Hepatic failure is a terminal picture of many liver diseases such as hepatic steatosis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, and is treated by liver transplantation, but a lack of donor organs is a worldwide problem. Thus, there is a demand for a means for safe and rapid liver regeneration for small grafts. One possibility would be the generation of a patients own liver tissue using isolated stem cells. The inventors found that mesenchymal stem cells can reprogrammed into hepatocytes by treatment with bile acids. Already after 7 days of treatment in serum-free medium, the resulting cell population showed markers characteristic for hepatic differentiation like albumin expression. Bile acids exert their function via the farnesoid X receptor and the G protein-coupled bile acid receptor 1 (TGR5). Cells obtained by the protocol may be used in a tissue replacement therapy.
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