Liver transplantation, either a partial liver from a living or deceased donor or a whole liver from a deceased donor, is the only curative therapy for severe end-stage liver disease. Only one-third of those on the liver transplant waiting list will be transplanted, and the demand for livers is projected to increase 23% in the next 20 years. Consequently, organ availability is an absolute constraint on the number of liver transplants that can be performed. Regenerative therapies aim to enhance liver tissue repair and regeneration by any means available (cell repopulation, tissue engineering, biomaterials, proteins, small molecules, and genes). Recent experimental work suggests that liver repopulation and engineered liver tissue are best suited to the task if an unlimited availability of functional induced pluripotent stem (iPS)–derived liver cells can be achieved. The derivation of iPS cells by reprogramming cell fate has opened up new lines of investigation, for instance, the generation of iPS-derived xenogeneic organs or the possibility of simply inducing the liver to reprogram its own hepatocyte function after injury. We reviewed current knowledge about liver repopulation, generation of engineered livers and reprogramming of liver function. We also discussed the numerous barriers that have to be overcome for clinical implementation.
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