Prospects for Adult Stem Cells in the Treatment of Liver Diseases

Stem Cells Dev. 2016 Oct;25(20):1471-1482. doi: 10.1089/scd.2016.0144. Epub 2016 Sep 7.


Hepatocytes constitute the main bulk of the liver and perform several essential functions. After injury, the hepatocytes have a remarkable capacity to regenerate and restore functionality. However, in some cases, the endogenous hepatocytes cannot replicate or restore the function, and liver transplantation, which is not exempt of complications, is required. Stem cells offer in theory the possibility of generating unlimited supply of hepatocytes in vitro due to their capacity to self-renew and differentiate when given the right cues. Stem cells isolated from an array of tissues have been investigated for their capacity to differentiate into hepatocyte-like cells in vitro and are employed in rescue experiments in vivo. Adult stem cells have gained in attractiveness over embryonic stem cells for liver cell therapy due to their origin, multipotentiality, and the possibility of autologous transplantation. This review deals with the promise and limitations of adult stem cells in clinically restoring liver functionality.