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Study paves way for liver cell library

Scientists have for the first time produced liver cells specific to different ethnic groups.

Liver cells (hepatocytes)

The University research could revolutionise the development of drugs to treat diseases and pave the way for the creation of a library of liver cells.

Drug reactions

These cells could be used to assess the reaction of drugs for different ethnicities, as in different ethnic populations the liver processes drugs differently.

This means that some groups may be more prone to adverse reactions than others.

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.

Gareth SullivanMedical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine

The research

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.

Cell library

Scientists are now seeking to create a library of cell lines to make drug development more efficient.

Liver cells currently used to test compounds are taken from dead or donor tissue and generally of poor quality.

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.

Different populations not only have varying prevalence of disease but there are also genetic differences with regards to how they process drugs.

Gareth SullivanMedical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine

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.