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Do multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells differentiate into hepatocytes?

Gonelle-Gispert, Carmen; Baertschiger, Reto; Morel, Philippe; Bühler, Leo

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: December 2007 - Volume 12 - Issue 6 - p 668–672
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0b013e3282f19f0f
Cellular transplantation: Edited by Philippe Morel

Purpose of review Multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are currently being investigated as a novel source of transplantable cells in the treatment of end-stage organ diseases. Recent data indicate that their differentiation potential may not be restricted to mesodermal cell lineages and that they display the potential to differentiate into cells derived from ectoderm and endoderm, for example neurons and hepatocytes. MSCs are easily accessible from bone marrow and can be extensively expanded in short periods of time. They are under investigation as an alternative to orthotopic liver or hepatocyte transplantation for therapy of end-stage liver disease.

Recent findings Studies have been reviewed examining the contribution of MSCs and bone marrow-derived hematopoietic stem cells to liver regeneration following acute and chronic liver failure in animal models. We will briefly show the characteristics of MSCs and outline recent publications investigating the capacity of these cells to differentiate into hepatocytes in vitro and in vivo. There is evidence that MSCs have the potential to express hepatocyte-specific genes but differentiation of these cells into functional hepatocytes is still a matter of debate.

Summary There is no evidence that MSC-derived hepatocytes contribute significantly to hepatocyte regeneration in animal models of liver failure. Further studies are required to explore the mechanisms allowing expression of hepatocyte-specific genes in MSCs.

Surgical Research Unit, Department of Surgery, University Hospital Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland

Correspondence to Carmen Gonelle-Gispert, PhD, Surgical Research Unit, University Hospital Geneva, Centre Medical Universitaire, 1, Rue Michel-Servet, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland Tel: +41 22 379 52 49; fax: +41 22 379 59 55; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.