Student project

Differentiation of human embryonic stem cells to hepatocytes

Many liver diseases involve hepatocyte malfunction. In most cases, transplantation of corrected hepatocytes would correct for disease symptoms. Liver donor shortage and hepatocyte inability to proliferate in vitro accentuate this problem. Embryonic stem and induced pluripotent stem cells proliferate indefinitely and have the capacity to differentiate into every cell type of the body. They could thus represent a solution to this organ donor shortage. In this project, we aim to differentiate ES and iPS cells to hepatocytes. First, we consider an approach to select the ES/iPS cell line showing the best potential to generate liver lineage using teratomas as a selection tool. Then we use lentiviral vectors to transduce this selected cell line with essential liver-­‐specific development factors to help differentiation efficiency. Next, we developed an in vitro differentiation protocol based on existing protocols and developmental clues of liver development to generate a pool of hepatocyte precursors. Later on, we injected these differentiated cells in mice liver of Fah-­‐, Rag2-­‐ and Il-­‐2rγ-­‐deficient mice to check for engraftment and liver marker expression. Our findings show, after checking for hepatocyte-­‐ specific markers in the differentiated cells, that our previous selection for the potentially best cell line seems correct. We also find that the transcription factors involved in liver development appear to have a negative effect in vitro on liver differentiation. Applying our protocol to regular ES cells results on the production of late maturity hepatocyte markers, showing correct differentiation and maturation of newly formed hepatocytes. Finally, mouse in vivo liver transplantation of these differentiated cells gives us human albumin expression detectable in blood serum of said mice


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