Potentials of regenerative medicine for liver disease
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Liver transplantation is still the only effective treatment for end-stage liver disease. However, because of the serious worldwide shortage of donated organs, an alternative cellular therapy would be desirable. Animal studies and preclinical trials have indicated that hepatocyte transplantation can serve as an alternative to liver transplantation. Unfortunately, however, the harvesting of hepatocytes is associated with the same problem as organ transplantation, i.e., a lack of a suitable cell source. Therefore, current stem cell technology, which is attempting to establish an unlimited supply of hepatocytes, would facilitate the clinical application of hepatocyte transplantation. This review summarizes current knowledge of embryonic and adult stem cell differentiation into hepatocytes and discusses how liver stem cells could be applied clinically in the future.