Professor Yaakov Nahmias, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The liver plays an important role in many bodily functions like digestion, immunity and metabolism. When it becomes diseased or injured its loss of function can cause significant damage to the body.
Liver disease is the only major cause of death still increasing year-on-year and remains the fifth ‘big killer’ in England and Wales after heart, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease. Liver transplantation is the only treatment for end stage liver disease, but organs are scarce.
Stem cell derived liver cells can be used to treat liver failure or genetic deficiencies but regretfully, these cells to date have shown very limited function in comparison to regular liver cells.
When under chronic stress, the bile duct produces a new line of stem cells that emerge in the liver. Professor Forbes and Professor Nahmias studied whether these cells can be used to regenerate damaged livers through using advance bioengineering approaches and microfluidic technology to mimic the bile duct and track the cells that are produced. One of their research’s biggest achievement was the development of a novel mouse model which would allow them to test the therapeutic potential of the human-derived cell types. Further findings from their research may form the basis for the development of translational applications in other forms of stem cell therapy as well.