Tens of millions of patients are affected by liver disease worldwide. Many of these patients can benefit from cell therapy involving living metabolically active cells, either by treatment of their liver disease, or by prevention of their disease phenotype. Cell therapies, including hepatocyte transplantation and bioartificial liver (BAL) devices, have been proposed as therapeutic alternatives to the shortage of transplantable livers. Both BAL and hepatocyte transplantation are cellular therapies that avoid use of a whole liver. Hepatocytes are also widely used in drug screening and liver disease modelling. However, the demand for human hepatocytes, heavily outweighs their availability by conventional means. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) technology brings together the potential benefits of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) (i
., self-renewal, pluripotency) and addresses the major ethical and scientific concerns of ESCs: embryo destruction and immune-incompatibility. It has been shown that hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs) can be generated from iPSCs. Furthermore, human iPSCs (hiPSCs) can provide an unlimited source of human hepatocytes and hold great promise for applications in regenerative medicine, drug screening and liver diseases modelling.
Despite steady progress, there are still several major obstacles that need to be overcome before iPSCs will reach the bedside. This review will focus on the current state of efforts to derive hiPSCs for potential use in modelling and treatment of liver disease.