Human stem cell-derived hepatocytes regenerate liver function


Researchers have generated functional hepatocytes from human stem cells, transplanted them into mice with acute liver injury, and shown the ability of these stem-cell derived human liver cells to function normally and increase survival of the treated animals.

This promising advance in the development of cell-based therapies to treat liver failure resulting from injury or disease relied on the development of scalable, reproducible methods to produce stem cell-derived hepatocytes in bioreactors, as described in an article in Stem Cells and Development, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Stem Cells and Development website.

Massoud Vosough and coauthors demonstrate a large-scale, integrated manufacturing strategy for generating functional hepatocytes in a single suspension culture grown in a scalable stirred bioreactor. In the article “Generation of Functional Hepatocyte-Like Cells from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells in a Scalable Suspension Culture” the authors describe the method used for scale-up, differentiation of the pluripotent stem cells into liver cells, and characterization and purification of the hepatocytes based on their physiological properties and the expression of liver cell biomarkers.

David C. Hay, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, U.K., comments on the importance of Vosough et al.’s contribution to the scientific literature in his editorial in Stem Cells and Development entitled “Rapid and Scalable Human Stem Cell Differentiation: Now in 3D.” The researchers “developed a system for mass manufacture of stem cell derived hepatocytes in numbers that would be useful for clinical application,” creating possibilities for future “immune matched cell based therapies,” says Hay. Such approaches could be used to correct mutated genes in stem cell populations prior to differentiation and transplantation, he adds.

“The elephant in the room for stem cell therapy rarely even acknowledged let alone addressed in the literature is that of scalable production of cells for translational application,” says Editor-in-Chief Graham C. Parker, PhD, research professor, Carman and Ann Adams Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Baharvand’s groups’ landmark publication not only demonstrates but exquisitely describes the methodology required to scale up stem cell populations for clinical application with a rigor to satisfy necessary manufacturing standards.”

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The Chemical Threat to America

It would not take an elaborate plot by Al Qaeda to endanger many lives.

SINCE Sept. 11, 2001, the American government, under two presidents, has taken unprecedented steps to ensure the safety of its citizens. Unfortunately, more than a decade later, a major flaw in our national security remains, leaving millions of Americans at risk. It’s a flaw that policy makers have known about for years but not yet done enough to fix.

Hundreds of chemical plants and other facilities maintain large stockpiles of dangerous substances and are in or near major American cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as many smaller but no less important towns. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a deliberate release of these chemicals at just one of these plants could threaten the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks, there was bipartisan support for addressing the vulnerabilities posed by these chemicals. After all, even small chemical accidents involving poison gas can result in the evacuation of an entire community. As the head of the E.P.A. at the time, I knew what could happen, if a terrorist were to target a chlorine gas facility, to the hundreds of thousands of people living downwind. This knowledge spurred the agency to take action.

We considered using existing authority in the Clean Air Act to reduce the vulnerability of chemical facilities to acts of terrorism, primarily by requiring facilities to evaluate the use of safer chemicals and processes. After considerable internal discussion, however, we decided that the best way forward was to enact legislation that would give the E.P.A. additional authority to do so. Unfortunately, and much to my frustration, after a long, multiagency effort, the White House declined to endorse a draft bill, and Congress did not act on its own.

This has now become a 10-year battle. Today, Congress is hopelessly gridlocked on extending the inadequate homeland security appropriations statute that currently regulates the industry.

And yet I am encouraged, because the E.P.A., under its current administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, is once again seriously considering addressing chemical facility security. In March, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council urged the agency to “use its authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act … to reduce or eliminate these catastrophic risks.” This is the right thing to do, and it is a step that the E.P.A. could take right now. All the agency needs is the support from President Obama to use its Clean Air Act authority.

The conventional wisdom in an election year is that nothing will get done until after the election. I believe, however, that the current administration, which is on record supporting these disaster prevention policies in the context of security legislation, must not wait any longer. Reducing the vulnerability of these facilities to terrorism is not about politics — it’s about public safety.

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via The New York Times – Christine Todd Whitman

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