It’s been a puzzle for a while now. Most tissues have a dedicated population of cells that both self-renew and make new specialized cells. But where was the liver stem cell?
Along the central veins of the organ’s lobes, it turns out. Most liver cells are polyploid, meaning they have more than two copies of each chromosome and have trouble dividing normally. These can’t do the job of a stem cell. But researchers at the School of Medicine led by professor of developmental biology Roel Nusse, PhD, located a population of cells in mice that acquire stem cell properties from proteins made by the central veins’ endothelial cells. The stem cells have the normal two copies of each chromosome. The findings, published in August in Nature, could lead to greater understanding of liver disease and better cell cultures for drug testing.