According to researchers, this new study shows, for the first time, that stem cells from humans, mice and rats can be turned into functioning liver cells. A team at the University of Texas have been able to treat adult bone marrow stem cells so that they become liver cells. These cells look, stain and function like authentic liver cells. They produce albumin, the most abundant protein made by liver, urea, which is specific to kidney and liver, and P450, the liver's detoxifying enzyme.
It's an exciting development, for liver cells have a range of potential applications. They could be used to help patients with genetic liver disease. They may also be used to repair the liver in those with cirrhosis or liver damage from medication, such as acetaminophen overdose. It may even be possible to build the new liver cells into a bio-artificial liver, which could provide a bridge for patients awaiting a liver transplant.