The future of stem cells in liver diseases

Maurizio Muraca, Ginevra Galbiati, Maria Teresa Vilei, Aline Sueli Coelho Fabricio, Maddalena Caruso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Preliminary experience with clinical hepatocyte transplantation during the past decade has provided proof of concept that cell therapy can be effective for the treatment of some liver diseases. Recent progress in cell biology resulting in the isolation and characterization of hepatic stem cells and progenitor cells further increased the expectation for a new approach to the treatment of genetic and chronic liver disease. Several potential sources have been identified of hepatic stem/progenitor cells exhibiting both differentiation towards the hepatic lineage in vitro and hepatic parenchymal repopulation with liver-specific metabolic activity in liver-injured animal models. However, a few of these results proved to be poorly reproducible in different laboratories, and it was recognized that some initial optimistic conclusions were drawn from incorrect interpretation of experimental data or from insufficient knowledge of the mechanisms involved in tissue regeneration. Moreover, only modest results have emerged so far from ongoing clinical experience involving the use of putative stem cells in liver disease. There is much need for a joined effort to concentrate the resources on a specific cell population, in order to better characterize its function, to assess its safety and to develop better focused clinical trials. In conclusion, while the biological features of stem cells still justify the hope for future clinical applications, hepatic stem cell therapy has still a long way to go from bench to bedside.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-76
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Hepatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Hematopoietic stem cells
  • Liver cell therapy
  • Liver regeneration
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Umbilical cord blood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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