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Stem Cells May Further Hepatitis C Research

TUESDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Using stem cells to create liver-like cells for laboratory research may advance efforts to find out why people respond differently to hepatitis C infection, scientists say.

It's not clear why some people are resistant to hepatitis C, while others are highly susceptible to the infectious disease that can cause liver inflammation and organ failure.

Studying liver cells from various people could reveal genetic factors behind these different responses, but liver cells are difficult to obtain and to grow in a lab dish.

Now, U.S. researchers have found a way to create liver-like cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are made from body tissues rather than embryos. These liver-like cells can then be infected with hepatitis C.

The research was published Jan. 30 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It's the first time that scientists have been able to establish an infection in iPSC-derived cells. The technique was developed by a team from MIT, Rockefeller University and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Along with benefiting hepatitis C research, the new technique may eventually have a role in personalized medicine, the researchers said in a MIT news release. By testing the effectiveness of different drugs on tissues derived from a patient, doctors could customize therapy for that patient, they said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about hepatitis C.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: MIT, news release, Jan. 30, 2012

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