CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Hepatitis C, an infectious disease that can cause inflammation and organ failure, has different effects on different people. But no one is sure why some people are very susceptible to the infection, while others are resistant.
Scientists believe that if they could study liver cells from different people in the lab, they could determine how genetic differences produce these varying responses. However, liver cells are difficult to obtain and notoriously difficult to grow in a lab dish because they tend to lose their normal structure and function when removed from the body.
Now, researchers from MIT, Rockefeller University and the Medical College of Wisconsin have come up with a way to produce liver-like cells from induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, which are made from body tissues rather than embryos; the liver-like cells can then be infected with hepatitis C. Such cells could enable scientists to study why people respond differently to the infection.
This is the first time that scientists have been able to establish an infection in cells derived from iPSCs a feat many research teams have been trying to achieve. The new technique, described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could also eventually enable "personalized medicine": Doctors could test the effectiveness of different drugs on tissues derived from the patient being treated, and thereby customize therapy for that patient.
The new study is a collaboration between Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT; Charles Rice, a professor of virology at Rockefeller; and Stephen Duncan, a professor of human and molecular genetics at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Stem cells to liver cells
Last year, Bhatia and Rice reported that they could induce liver cells to grow outside the body by g
|Contact: Caroline McCall, MIT Media Relations|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology