Liver cell therapy: is this the end of the beginning?

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2018 Apr;75(8):1307-1324. doi: 10.1007/s00018-017-2713-8. Epub 2017 Nov 27.


The prevalence of liver diseases is increasing globally. Orthotopic liver transplantation is widely used to treat liver disease upon organ failure. The complexity of this procedure and finite numbers of healthy organ donors have prompted research into alternative therapeutic options to treat liver disease. This includes the transplantation of liver cells to promote regeneration. While successful, the routine supply of good quality human liver cells is limited. Therefore, renewable and scalable sources of these cells are sought. Liver progenitor and pluripotent stem cells offer potential cell sources that could be used clinically. This review discusses recent approaches in liver cell transplantation and requirements to improve the process, with the ultimate goal being efficient organ regeneration. We also discuss the potential off-target effects of cell-based therapies, and the advantages and drawbacks of current pre-clinical animal models used to study organ senescence, repopulation and regeneration.

Keywords: Biomaterials; Cell sheet; Cell tracking; Co-culture; Differentiation; Engraftment; Extracellular matrix; Hepatic progenitor cells; Hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs); Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Liver / cytology*
  • Liver / physiology*
  • Liver Diseases / therapy*
  • Liver Regeneration / physiology*
  • Liver Transplantation / methods
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology