Objective: Animal organs engineered to be chimeric for human cells could contribute significantly to the field of transplantation, including studies of human-specific diseases such as hepatitis-C, as treatment for in-born errors of metabolism, and for development of a renewable source of transplantable organs via modified xenotransplantation. We sought to use human embryoid body-derived stem cells (EBDs) to populate livers in animals for applications in transplant surgery. Methods: SCID mice and rats underwent liver injury with carbon tetrachloride exposure or partial hepatectomy. Animals received intrasplenic injection of fluorescently labeled human stem cells. Spleen and liver were assessed at 2, 7, 15, and 30 days after transplant for the presence of EBDs and markers of human hepatocyte differentiation. Results: EBDs migrate to and engraft in animal liver after splenic injection under conditions of hepatic injury. EBDs are detectable at 2 days and are in abundance at 1 week after transplant. EBDs persist in rodent liver long term (>1 month), and once engrafted differentiate into functional human hepatocytes as assessed by production of human alpha-feto-protein (AFP) and human albumin. Conclusions: We developed a novel animal model in which hepatic injury and stem cell transplantation lead to the generation of humanized animal organs. We are currently using our model to study recurrent hepatitis-C after liver transplantation, and as an alternative to whole organ transplantation for treatment of in-born errors of metabolism.
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