The overarching goal of HEPSTEM is to develop from human pluripotent stem cells (embryonic stem cells (hESC) and induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)) mature, functional hepatocytes. Such cells could be used
(1) by the pharmaceutical industry to evaluate drug metabolism; study mechanisms underlying HBV/HCV infections and develop antiviral therapies,
(2) in bioartifical liver (BAL) devices that can support detoxification functions of the liver to bridge patients with acute liver failure to liver transplantation. Some positive clinical trials have already been reported, but further exploration of the usefulness of BAL devices has been hampered by lack of suitable parenchymal liver cells,
(3) even though this goal is likely the most difficult to reach, as source of cells for hepatocyte transplantation. Small clinical trials have suggested that parenchymal cell function can be - at least temporarily - replaced by transplanting hepatoctes. Further testing of this therapy is also hampered by lack of suitable parenchymal liver cells.