The study, led by the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, paves the way for the creation of a library of liver cells, which can be used to assess the reaction of drugs for different ethnicities.
The findings are important because in different ethnic populations the liver processes drugs in different ways – with some groups more prone to adverse reactions than others.
Researchers developed a way to create liver cell lines from adult skin cells taken from Caucasians and Native Americans.
The liver cells were created by manipulating the skin cells to resemble embryonic stem cells, which have the ability to become different cells within the body.
The scientists are now seeking to create a library of cell lines to make drug development more efficient as liver cells currently used to test compounds are generally of poor quality because they are taken from dead or donor tissue. These cells don’t survive long and don’t multiply, making them less reliable for drug testing.
The cell library would enable scientists to weed out chemical compounds that cause adverse reactions at a much earlier stage.
Gareth Sullivan, of the University’s MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine,
said: “Different populations not only have varying prevalence of disease but there are also genetic differences with regards to how they process drugs.
What we have been able to do will help drug discovery because it means we are able to represent different populations and make sure the drugs being developed do not have adverse reactions.”
The research, which was carried out in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, is published by the journal Hepatology. As well as using liver cells created from stem cell lines to test drugs, it is hoped the cells could eventually be used in therapy for patients suffering from liver disease.
They could also play a role to aid research into liver disease.
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A picture of the hepatocytes is available on request.
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