Year 1

The overall goal of this project is to establish new strategies for liver regeneration. For this purpose, we aim at identifying molecular mechanisms regulating liver regeneration that could be exploited for therapeutic purposes. Along these lines, we have identified small RNAs that either promote or inhibit the proliferation of hepatocytes, the cells in the liver that provide its manifold functions. We are now working on developing tools to modify the levels of these small RNAs in the liver with the goal to enhance liver regeneration. In addition, we aim at developing hepatocyte replacement strategies for liver diseases that cause irreparable hepatocyte damage. We focus on immune-compatible pluripotent stem cells because they can in principle generate the large numbers of hepatocytes required for therapeutically effective cell therapy and would not require life-long immune suppression. We have established proof-of-principle for the therapeutic efficacy of hepatocytes derived from mouse pluripotent stem cells, and are now working towards recapitulating these results in human cells.