Jekyll and Hyde: Evolving perspectives on the function and potential of the adult liver progenitor (oval) cell

Authors

  • Belinda Knight,

    1. School of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Western Australia
    2. Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, UWA Centre for Medical Research, University of Western Australia
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  • Vance B. Matthews,

    1. School of Biomedical and Chemical Sciences, University of Western Australia
    2. Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, UWA Centre for Medical Research, University of Western Australia
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  • John K. Olynyk,

    1. School of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Western Australia
    2. Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, UWA Centre for Medical Research, University of Western Australia
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  • George C. Yeoh

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biomedical and Chemical Sciences, University of Western Australia
    2. Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, UWA Centre for Medical Research, University of Western Australia
    • School of Biomedical and Chemical Sciences, University of Western Australia, Hackett Dve, Nedlands, WA 6009 Australia.
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  • Belinda Knight and Vance B. Matthews contributed equally.

Abstract

The liver progenitor cell (LPC) has enormous potential for use in cell therapy to treat liver disease. Since liver regenerates readily from pre-existing hepatocytes, a role for LPCs and, indeed, their existence have been questioned. Research during the last decade has established that LPCs are an important alternative source of cells for liver regeneration. Their utility for cell therapy lies in their ability to generate both hepatocytes and cholangiocytes. However, they are observed in liver diseases that often lead to cancer and there is experimental evidence that implicates LPCs as the source of tumours. This article provides a brief history of the studies that established the functional importance of LPCs in liver disease. It focuses on mouse models that have led to the identification of factors that regulate LPC growth and differentiation and discusses LPCs derived from different sources. Recent promising results from both in vitro and vivo studies suggest that LPCs could be useful for cell therapy. In the context of liver disease, LPCs may indeed be the cell of the future and understandably “our favourite cell”. BioEssays 27:1192–1202, 2005. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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