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Differentiation of mesenchymal cells derived from human amniotic membranes into hepatocyte-like cells in vitro


: Professor Yukio Nakamura, Cell Engineering Division, RIKEN BioResource Center, Koyadai 3-1-1, Tskuba, Ibaraki, 305-0074, Japan. Email:


Mesenchymal stem cells are believed to be involved in the formation of mesenchymal tissues, including bone, cartilage, muscle, tendon and adipose tissue. Interestingly, it has previously been reported that mesenchymal stem cells could also differentiate into endoderm-derived cells, such as hepatocytes. The amniotic membrane contains mesenchymal cells and is a readily available human tissue. Therefore, we investigated the potential of mesenchymal cells derived from human amniotic membrane (MC-HAM) to differentiate into hepatocytes. We analyzed the expression of hepatocyte-specific genes in MC-HAM before and after induction of differentiation into hepatocytes. We observed the expression of mRNAs encoding albumin, a-fetoprotein, cytokeratin 18 and α1-antitrypsin, but not those encoding glucose-6-phosphatase or ornithine transcarbamylase, prior to the induction of differentiation. However, immunocytochemistry revealed that albumin and α-fetoprotein were abundantly produced only after the induction of differentiation into hepatocytes. In addition, we observed the storage of glycogen, a characteristic feature of hepatocytes, using periodic acid-Schiff staining of MC-HAM induced to differentiate into hepatocytes. Overall, MC-HAM appear to be able to differentiate into cells possessing some characteristics of hepatocytes. Although further studies should be carried out to determine whether such in vitro-differentiated cells can function in vivo as hepatocytes. These cells may be useful in various applications that require human hepatocytes.