Hepatitis C, an infectious disease that can cause inflammation and organ failure, has different effects on different people. But no one is sure why some people are very susceptible to the infection, while others are resistant.
Scientists believe that if they could study liver cells from different people in the lab, they could determine how genetic differences produce these varying responses. However, liver cells are difficult to obtain and notoriously difficult to grow in a lab dish because they tend to lose their normal structure and function when removed from the body.
Now, researchers from MIT, Rockefeller University and the Medical College of Wisconsin have come up with a way to produce liver-like cells from induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, which are made from body tissues rather than embryos; the liver-like cells can then be infected with hepatitis C. Such cells could enable scientists to study why people respond differently to the infection.